Felix Hernandez entered Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field with two significant milestones within his grasp. He was trying to become the third pitcher in Seattle history to win 100 games and, more significantly, the third pitcher in major league history to record 100 wins and 1,500 strikeouts before turning 27. Hernandez was skunked on both counts.
After allowing one weak single through four innings and one run through five, Hernandez gave up a two-run homer to Alex Rios on an 0-and-2 count in the sixth, helping lift the White Sox to a 4-3 win. Seattle has lost 20 of the past 24 games it has played in Chicago.
Hernandez still has plenty of opportunities to join Jamie Moyer (145) and Randy Johnson (130) as the only pitchers to win 100 games in a Seattle uniform. But since he turns 27 in just two days, he will not have a chance to follow Walter Johnson (179 wins, 1,693 strikeouts), Dwight Gooden (1,541 strikeouts, 132 wins) and Bert Blyleven (122 wins, 1,728 strikeouts) in the “before 27” 100-1,500 club.
The White Sox added another run in the seventh on Alejandro De Aza’s sacrifice fly. Hernandez exited after 6.1 innings, having allowed four earned runs on six hits. On an extremely windy day, Hernandez struck out just three and walked two, throwing 108 pitches, 66 for strikes.
The loss evened Hernandez’s record at 1-1 (2.57 ERA) and also evened Seattle’s ledger at 3-3.
The Mariners drew within a run on a two-run homer by Michael Saunders in the eighth inning following a Brendan Ryan bloop single, but failed to capitalize on numerous other scoring opportunities. Saunders, who hit leadoff in place of Franklin Gutierrez (a day off until he pinch-hit in the ninth), went deep for the first time and gave Seattle home runs out of the leadoff spot for the second straight game.
Aside from the Saunders long ball, the Mariners did little with Chicago pitching, scratching out just three hits and one unearned run — on a double by Raul Ibanez, who scored when Dustin Ackley reached on an error — off starter Dylan Axelrod, who left after 5.2 innings after tossing 97 pitches.
The Mariners finished with six hits in 33 at-bats, a .181 game batting average, left six runners stranded and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners and White Sox will conclude the series Sunday. Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0) starts against Chris Sale (1-0), one of the better left handers in the American League. Sale won 17 games last year and is 2-0 in his career against Seattle.
NOTES: Tickets still remain for the Mariners home opener Monday at Safeco Field. Lefty Joe Saunders faces Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game the last time he visited Safeco (April 21, 2012).