ARLINGTON, Texas — Felix Hernandez has never had an easy time against the Texas Rangers and now, his Cy Young Award chances just took a turn toward the difficult as well.
Hernandez needs to keep his earned-run average as low as possible to have a repeat shot at the award. But giving up a five-spot in the second inning of this 15-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Saturday night wasn’t much help in that category.
The fact Hernandez made it through just five innings in front of 44,247 at Rangers Ballpark also sent his ERA climbing from 2.28 to 2.47. As was the case three years ago, when he won the Cy Young Award, Hernandez might need to keep his ERA much lower than his opponents to offset the fact his win total might not be as high as some of his nearest competitors.
David Murphy highlighted a five-run second inning for the Rangers that erased a 2-0 Mariners lead. Kyle Seager, who had driven in a first inning run, countered with a solo homer in the third, but the Rangers put it away late on a two-run double by pinch-hitter Craig Gentry.
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The Rangers then added eight more runs in a disastrous bottom of the eighth for the Mariners that turned the game into a blowout. Several non-plays on ground balls, including a Brendan Ryan error on a botched double play helped contribute to a half-inning that took 37 minutes to play.
Hernandez had a 2-0 lead when the bottom of the second began. But he’d be struggling just to stay three runs down by the time it ended.
Two singles and a four-pitch walk loaded the bases with nobody out. Hernandez rallied with a strikeout, then got Jurickson Profar to loft a fly ball to right-center.
Mariners center fielder Dustin Ackley appeared to get a late start on the ball, then allowed it to drop a few feet in front of him rather than attempting to dive. A run scored on the single and then two more came home when David Murphy ripped an ensuing double over Ackley’s head.
Moments later, Leonys Martin dropped a squeeze bunt up the third-base line and Profar raced home for the fourth Texas run of the inning. Elvis Andrus followed with a single that made it 5-2 and an eventual stolen base put runners at second and third with only one out.
But Hernandez clamped down from there, ending the inning with a pair of ground outs. The value of preventing further damage was seen quickly as Seager hit his home run into the upper deck in right field off Martin Perez to cut the Texas lead to 5-3 in the top of the third.
But the Mariners could not get any closer. Raul Ibanez led the fourth inning off with a bloop double, but would get only as far as third base.
Hernandez would go on to make it through only five innings, but keeping the deficit at two runs.
The Rangers had chances to break things open in the sixth when Lucas Luetge replaced Hernandez and Texas loaded the bases with nobody out. But Capps came on and shut down the side in order to send the 5-3 game to the seventh.
That’s where the Mariners finally broke, with Capps giving out a one-out single and a walk, then a liner to center that Ackley made a nice play on for the second out. Oliver Perez came in from there and Gentry slugged a double to the left field corner that scored both runners.
Hernandez’s rough outing continued his losing trend against Texas, a team that has beaten him 19 times in his career. That’s the most of any squad in baseball and seven wins more than the next-closest team, the Angels.
Keeping his ERA as low as possible is crucial for Hernandez, who faces stiff competition from Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers and his 17-1 record. With Scherzer set to post one of the better won-lost marks in recent memory, Hernandez likely would have to vastly outperform him in ERA – Scherzer’s is at 2.75 — to outgain him in awards voting.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.