Felix Hernandez, once more, wasn’t “kingly” versus the Texas Rangers, a foe that has gotten the best of him over the past 13 months.
Texas (15-9) capitalized off an uncharacteristically wild Hernandez in the fifth inning to plate three runs. The Rangers eventually chased “The King” before going on to win 6-3 in the second of a three-game series Saturday.
Adrian Beltre was 2-for-4 with a walk and Leonys Martin went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, including the tying run after Elvis Andrus hit a sacrifice fly. Prince Fielder scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on a Mitch Moreland sacrifice fly.
In his last seven starts against the Rangers, Hernandez is 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA in 40.1 innings. He has been much better versus Texas in his two starts against them this season, posting a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings, yet has garnered a no-decision in each. Saturday night, his wild fifth inning led to four singles and a bases-loaded walk to the No. 9 hitter, Robinson Chirinos. The rough inning not only erased the 3-0 lead, but drove his pitch count into the 90’s, sending him closer to the bench.
“He just seemed to elevate some balls . . . and he proved that he’s human, it happens,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He made some corrections and shut them down the next inning. We’re still in a position to win the game, we just didn’t come through offensively.”
Hernandez settled down with a smooth sixth inning before being removed for Tom Wilhelmsen in the seventh. Hernandez yielded five hits (all singles), three walks and struck out four. It was the second consecutive sub-par outing by The King’s standards.
“They were swinging at the first pitch and I was making mistakes, staying in the middle of the plate,” Hernandez said. “After that, I don’t even remember the last time I walked somebody on four pitches with the bases loaded.
“It was very frustrating.”
Seattle’s (9-14) offense got out to a quick start thanks to a change at the top of the order after 22 games. McClendon inserted outfielder Michael Saunders into the leadoff spot, bumping previous leadoff man Abraham Almonte into the second spot. McClendon said before the game that the change was simply “tinkering.”
“Just followed my gut,” McClendon said. “I sat down to make out the lineup, said ‘I’m going to lead Saunders off and hit (Almonte) second’. . . I always said, managers don’t make out the lineups, the players do.”
Saunders took advantage. He hit a home run to right-center, his first, on the seventh pitch he saw from Texas starter Colby Lewis.
Kyle Seager opened the second with a home run for a 2-0 lead tha Hernandez held as he retired nine in a row to close out the fourth inning.
In the fourth, the Mariners’ offense had their best opportunity to take control of the game but managed just one run after loading the bases with none out.
Seager led off with a single, Justin Smoak followed with the same and Dustin Ackley worked a walk. But after catcher Mike Zunino hit a sacrifice fly to right, the slumping Brad Miller hit a shallow fly ball to left that didn’t allow Smoak to score, Saunders struck out looking on a breaking ball. Miller went 0-for-4 and is hitting .174.
“Very disappointing,” McClendon said. “I thought that was the (decisive) inning for us as far as the ball game was concerned. We certainly had an opportunity to blow it open right there and didn’t get it done.
“He’s just scuffling right now,” McClendon added of Miller. “He’ll come out of it.”
Saunders was 1-for-3 before being lifted for pinch-hitter Stefen Romero in the seventh inning. Romero, a right-handed hitter, delivered a single off of lefty reliever Aaron Poreda. However, the Mariners left two stranded and remained tied 3-3 in the eighth inning.
Texas tacked on a run in the eighth inning when Fielder scored on the sacrifice fly, then two more in the ninth inning off Joe Beimel, who gave up four hits in his first outing since April 20 in Miami.
The Mariners went 1-2-3 in the ninth to snap their modest two-game win streak.
Prior to the game, McClendon was non-committal on Saunders getting an extended look in that role. Almonte wasw 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and popped up a bunt attempt in the seventh as his average fell to .204.
Did Saunders show enough to stay in the role moving forward?
“I’m not sure,” said McClendon. “I’ll sit down with the coaches and and we’ll make out the lineup.”
A day after being hit in the knee by a pitch, Corey Hart returned to the lineup as the designated hitter. He was 0-for-3 with a walk . . . Hisashi Iwakuma will make his first rehab start Sunday since injuring the middle finger on his throwing hand early in spring training. Iwakuma will go five innings and around 80 pitches for AAA Tacoma in Las Vegas. If Iwakuma comes away healthy and looks sharp, odds are he will make his 2014 debut Friday at Houston. “We want to see a good outing, a healthy outing and we will re-assess after that,” said McClendon. . . Taijuan Walker will play catch a couple days in a row as long as he continues to feel good, then begin a throwing program. He’s excited. “I start throwing Monday. I can’t wait,” Walker said. “Get going, get back up here and begin pitching again. . . Especially because I was already built up, so I shouldn’t have to start over.”