Felix Hernandez saved the worst game of his 11-year career for the AL West-leading Houston Astros Friday, blowing apart like a chicken coop in a Texas tornado, giving up eight runs and getting only one out in the worst start in Mariners history. Compounding the ghastliness (box score), the Mariners (27-34) had only four hits in the 10-0 shaming to start a three-game series at Minute Maid Park, where they are 0-5 this season. The Astros (35-27) had lost seven in a row.
A day after starter J.A. Happ went 2.1 innings in a 6-0 loss in Cleveland, Hernandez went .1, getting a single strikeout while allowing five hits, two walks and a throwing error to the plate after fielding an infield chopper, which allowed the second and third runs. Concentration blown, in the same manner that a muddy Safeco mound disrupted him recently against the Yankees, Hernandez gave up home runs to ex-Mariner Luis Valbuena (three runs) and Jason Castro (two).
After missing two games with back spasms, Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup Friday. But the designated hitter could do nothing to stop the shutout streak that has reached 20 innings. The Mariners had four singles, and have scored three runs or less in 14 of the past 15 games.
Hernandez (9-3) was seeking to become the majors’ first 10-game winner. His ERA rocketed from 2.51 to 3.38. In his first five road starts this season, Hernandez was 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA.
The biggest development was the deployment of backup C Jesus Sucre as an emergency reliever in the eighth — the fourth position player to pitch in club history. He gave up a hit that was erased with a double play and another grounder for the third out in just seven pitches. The Mariners went through Joe Biemel, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Mark Lowe and Sucre.
Brett Olberholtzer completely dominated the Mariners for eight innings for his first win of the season.
“Just a bad night. He’s human. He was at 31 pitches with one out, it made no sense to continue. A good throw (on Hernandez’s misplay) and the runner was probably out” — Manager Lloyd McClendon on Hernandez.
“You can’t stress a bullpen that much and be OK on the third day. We got a young kid going tomorrow. Yesterday was really a tough game.” — McClendon on the possibility of adding another relief pitcher.
Hernandez had a one-out start in April 2007 but left that game with elbow tightness . . . After two non-save appearances in relief, McClendon hasn’t seen enough to return Fernando Rodney to old job. “I don’t think he’s quite ready to go back to the closer’s role,” McClendon said. “We’ll use him where we think it fits the best. He’s getting better. He’s still working on things every day. It’s not quite there yet.” . . . Hisashi Iwakuma, out since April 23 with a strained right lat muscle, could have a rehab start in a week at Tacoma if all goes well, McClendon said.
Rookie Mike Montgomery (0-1, 2.51) has the responsibility of stopping the bleeding against Collin McHugh (6-2, 4.34) at 1:10 p.m. PT.