Hernandez's relief appearance spares bullpen

Right-hander delivers four shutout innings after McHugh's short day

Hernandez's relief appearance spares bullpen

HOUSTON -- After Collin McHugh continued to struggle in the third inning, Houston manager A.J. Hinch notified Roberto Hernandez he'd start the fourth inning of Saturday's 8-1 loss to Seattle.

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Yanked from the rotation on June 8, Hernandez said he kept his same demeanor and warmup plan while toiling in the right-field bullpen in his new role.

"He needed to go as long as he could," Hinch said. "And he could have gone longer."

Hernandez, in his first relief appearance this season and only his fourth in the last two seasons, tossed four scoreless innings with five strikeouts.

It was the longest relief appearance of his career and tied Asher Wojciechowski for the longest on the club.

Pitching to an aggressive Mariners lineup looking to build on the 8-0 lead it had already built through the first three innings, Hernandez relied on his changeup and mid-80s slider to cause early contact.

"Every pitch was working today," Hernandez said. "Had a lot of slider, changeup."

"He was missing where we were trying to go," catcher Jason Castro added. "Wasn't making too many mistakes over the plate and continuing to change speeds like he does. Got some guys to put some soft contact in play which is his strength."

Hinch lifted Hernandez after a 63-pitch outing just so he could get both Chad Qualls, who hadn't pitched since June 9, and Luke Gregerson, who had gone six days between appearances, an inning of work.

It was Hernandez, though, who kept the entire Houston pitching cavalry rested.

"Roberto did a terrific job of bridging that gap and saving the rest of the 'pen," Hinch said. "We're very fresh going into tomorrow.

"I was proud of him and he needed to do that."

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.