After three strong innings, Felix faces trouble

Mariners ace allows six runs, only records one out in 4th

After three strong innings, Felix faces trouble

SEATTLE -- For three innings, he looked like the dominant Felix Hernandez of old. Then, the wheels came off Wednesday, which may be a fitting metaphor for where the Mariners' season seems headed after they lost their fifth straight game, 8-6, to the Rangers, on another night they could have made up ground in the American League Wild Card race.

In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Hernandez breezed through three perfect frames on 38 pitches, notching three strikeouts. But that's where the good times ended.

In an ill-fated fourth, Hernandez gave up six runs (five earned) on two singles, three walks and a pair of errors by Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager. Manager Scott Servais took out Hernandez with the bases loaded, as his pitch count reached 67. Then, reliever Andrew Albers immediately gave up a grand slam to Rougned Odor.

"I lost my command a little bit," Hernandez said. "I was missing, but I was missing down in the zone. Three walks and a couple base hits, that's what happened. I knew I wasn't going longer than 70, so I was done for the day."

"The first three innings were as sharp as I've seen Felix in quite some time," Servais said. "So I was surprised as anybody it got away from us in that fourth inning."

The Mariners fell to four games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Hernandez hasn't been at ace form this season, going 5-5 with a 4.57 ERA in 15 starts during an injury-plagued campaign in which he has spent nearly four months on the disabled list, over two stints, with shoulder issues.

He's lined up for potentially two more starts on the season-ending road trip next week in Oakland and Anaheim.

"This has been tough for me," Hernandez said. "I'm not used to being on the DL, but it happens. Now, the last two starts, I'm just going to try to finish strong and get two wins for the team."

Hernandez was surprisingly sharp in his first game back off the DL last Thursday at Texas, when he held the Rangers to one run on three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old was limited to 54 pitches because he didn't have any Minor League rehab outings to build up his arm.

Servais was willing to push Hernandez to 70-80 pitches on Wednesday, but those hopes were derailed in the fourth when six of the seven batters he faced reached base. Haniger's error merely allowed leadoff hitter Delino DeShields to take an extra base after he walked and Shin-Soo Choo singled to right, with Haniger not coming up with the ball cleanly.

Seager's error was a little more costly, as he tried to hurry a short-hop bouncer by Elvis Andrus and, instead, had the ball deflect off his glove as DeShields scored from third. Hernandez then walked Adrian Beltre, gave up a bases-loaded, two-run single to Nomar Mazara and -- after striking out Joey Gallo -- issued another walk to Robinson Chirinos.

Albers, who has been outstanding since being acquired from the Braves, couldn't help out this time, as he gave up Hernandez's final three runs on the Odor slam that put the Mariners down, 7-1.

"Frustrating, I think, is the best way to put it," Servais said. "You get off to a good start, Felix is cruising along, I don't think anybody really squares him up the first time through the order, and you're thinking, 'We're probably going to be OK to get five innings out of him.' But it just didn't happen."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.