Mariners ace winless with 14.80 ERA in last 3 starts vs. Astros
By Greg Johns
HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have Felix Hernandez's number after beating Seattle's ace for the third straight time over the past two seasons on Tuesday, this one an 8-4 decision that made the Mariners' postseason bid even tougher.
But Hernandez -- who was hit hard his previous two meetings with Houston -- didn't get any help as two errors in a fateful six-run sixth inning led to four unearned runs that wound up being the difference.
"He didn't have wipeout stuff by any means, but he certainly was pitching well and deserved a better fate," said manager Scott Servais.
Hernandez's final line was 10 hits and eight runs (four earned) with two walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as he fell to 11-7 with a 3.71 ERA on the season.
The harder-to-swallow numbers are his three games against Houston in the past two years -- 0-3 with a 14.80 ERA.
"I'm not going to say it's not a good lineup," Hernandez said. "I just have to make different pitches and have a different approach and I'll be fine. I changed a lot of my approach tonight and I thought we had it going."
The 30-year-old gave up a pair of runs in the first, but escaped that jam and a two-on, one-out situation in the third with double-play grounders. He sailed into the sixth with a 4-2 lead and just 61 pitches.
Hernandez gave up five hits that frame and ultimately was knocked out by a bases-loaded, two-run double by George Springer and a two-run single by Marwin Gonzalez. But he would have been out of the inning without any runs if not for shortstop Ketel Marte throwing the ball wide on a double-play attempt on Yulieski Gurriel's grounder up the middle.
That allowed the first run to score and cut Seattle's lead to 4-3. Hernandez then walked Tony Kemp and gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Alex Bregman. But again he would have escaped with a tie game, but Lind bobbled a grounder by Jake Marisnick and then just got beat to the bag by a diving Marisnick to keep the frame alive.
At least that was the call on the field and after a review, the safe call was upheld when replay officials didn't see enough evidence to overturn it.
"I saw the replay and I thought he was out," said Hernandez, whose motion was seconded by both Lind and Servais.
But Hernandez couldn't overcome the issues, despite what he thought were good pitches.
"It was a broken-bat single by Bregman and good pitch to Springer that he hit right down the line," Hernandez said. "I was fine. We made some mistakes and lost. But I was still making good pitches. They got lucky on some things."
Given two extra outs, the Astros didn't relent, with Springer's double and Gonzalez's single ending Hernandez's night. But despite their recent run against the former Cy Young winner, the Astros aren't taking anything for granted.
"He's good when he's on," said Houston manager A.J. Hinch. "He's a different pitcher than he was three or four or five years ago. The fastball has a little bit less velocity, but the mix of pitches is still really good. If you can pick a side of the plate, pick a pitch that's up a little bit to where you can put it in play off the barrel, there's a chance to do some damage.
"If you swing at good pitches, we made him throw some good pitches as the game went along. He cruised early after he got out of the first inning, but he's still a tough matchup."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.