Is it time to worry about Felix Hernandez? Probably not. He insists that he’s fine physically, which is the main concern. But in his last two outings, both losses that have contributed to the Mariners’ current eight-game losing streak, he’s given up a combined 19 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in 10 2/3 innings. His ERA has shot up from 1.53 to 2.51.
Hernandez traditionally struggles in May. In 43 career starts in May heading into this one, he had a 12-21 record and 4.44 ERA, by far his worst showing of any month. But he had been doing great in May until that start in New York on May 14, when he left early because of lower back stiffness.
I asked Felix after the game if his back felt all right tonight.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. I feel fine,” he replied. “It’s not that. But it can’t happen anymore. I have to go out and do something about it.”
Hernandez’s overall take was that he felt his stuff was decent — better than the results.
“They put great at-bats, put ball in play and found some holes. I make good pitches and they still hit it. It was a hard battle. I definitely liked my stuff. I felt pretty good, made good pitches, but they put the ball in play and found holes.”
Here was the take of Rangers manager Ron Washington: “We just didn’t missed opportunities when he threw the ball in the strike zone. He’s at his best when he can get you to chase some pitches and then lock you up with the fastball. Tonight, when he threw some balls across the plate, we were fortunate enough to put them in play.”
Asked if giving up 11 hits bothered him, Hernandez said, “No, not at all, because I think I made good pitches.That’s a tough lineup, so you just have to live with that.”
Hernandez admitted he really wanted to end the losing streak, particularly with a big crowd on his bobblehead night (35,022, the biggest crowd at Safeco since the home opener).
“I wanted to win for our team and for the fans. It’s tough,” he said.
If you’re wondering why Justin Smoak was pinch-hit for in the eighth by Endy Chavez, it’s because he strained his oblique, Eric Wedge said. Smoak may have done it on a checked swing in the first inning. He stayed in but finally had to come out. He’ll be re-evaluated in the morning.
Wedge admitted it was a blow to lose again with their ace on the mound.
“It’s tough, but we’re all so passionate about Felix,’’ he said. “He cares as much, if not more, than anybody. This is where you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to stay determined, stay persistent. You have to come to the ballpark and keep knocking on that wall. When you get in stretches like this, it’s tough to win a big league ballgame. But you have to keep coming here and keep pounding and keep pounding and keep expecting good things to happen.”
It’s been awhile, however, since good things happened for the Mariners.