BALTIMORE — With the clock likely ticking down on his career in Seattle, Felix Hernandez is hoping to prove he can still play at the major league level.
The former Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star insists he’s not thinking about leaving the Mariners after 15 seasons for another team — or the possibility that his illustrious career may be over.
“I know it’s going to hit me at some point,” the Venezuelan-born right-hander said after Friday’s 5-3 loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles. “But I’m not thinking about anything yet. Nothing.”
The King would probably like to leave his performance against the Orioles off his résumé for prospective suitors looking for a gritty veteran to fill a roster spot next season.
Hernandez (1-7, 6.51 ERA) was behind 3-2 before getting an out and ended up surrendering five runs and eight hits in five innings. Throw in a pair wild pitches and two walks and it was a night he’d probably like to forget.
Despite the shaky outing by Hernandez, the Mariners were still in the game but managed only four hits all night — and none after an opposite-field double by rookie sensation Kyle Lewis to open the fourth.
“It was not our best offensive performance,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’d been swinging the bat really good. To get shut down like that surprised me as much as anybody. Four hits? It’s not enough in this ballpark. Tonight wasn’t our night.”
Lewis staked the Mariners to an early lead when he drilled a first-inning, two-run shot into the left-field seats for his sixth homer in 10 big-league games. But the Orioles, at 50-104 sporting the second-worst record in the American League, scored four in the bottom half of the inning to take a lead they never relinquished.
The Mariners trimmed the lead to 4-3 in the fourth when Lewis scored from third on a ground out by Austin Nola, but the offense sputtered the rest of the way.
Lewis is batting .325 and giving Mariners fans hope that better times are on the horizon.
“Just trying to keep it as simple as I can,” said the soft-spoken former first-round draft pick. “Trying to keep my approach short and quick. When I make contact, try to put the barrel on the ball and give myself the best chance by hitting it hard.”
The loss snapped the Mariners’ five-game winning streak and dropped Hernandez to 0-6 with a 9.17 ERA in nine starts on the road. Hernandez has not been more than three games over .500 in any season since 2015 when he was 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA.
With his $175 million contract expiring at the end of the season, the 33-year-old Hernandez will probably make his final start in a Mariners uniform Thursday at T-Mobile Park against the A’s.
Servais insists that Hernandez has what it takes to be in the majors, whether or not it’s in Seattle.
“He has to use all of his pitches,” Servais said. “Back in the day, he could rely more on fastball and change-up, which was devastating. Now, he’s having to mix the curveball in there and do some different things.
“But he certainly got enough to get lineups out here in this league.”
Servais called Hernandez an “icon” in the Mariners organization.
“When the bell rings and the lights are on, he really competes,” he said. “He figures out a way to do whatever’s working that day or if it’s not working, he has the ability to make adjustments. He’s a really gifted pitcher.”
Hernandez, who has had shoulder injuries this season but says he wants to continue playing next year, has not won a game since his first outing of 2019 when he gave up one earned run in 5.1 innings during a 6-3 victory over the Angels on April 1.
He doesn’t know what to expect in his final start or when the season ends.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be emotional. I don’t know if I’m going to be quiet. I don’t know if I’ll be happy. I don’t know.”
- Manager Scott Servais said it’s doubtful OF Mitch Haniger (groin) will return before the season ends. “It’s been a rough year (for him),” Servais said. “He’s a really good player. We’ve missed him.”
- Rookie Shed Long, who’s been sensational since moving into the leadoff spot on Sept. 11, went 0 for 4, ending a seven-game hitting streak.