Felix Hernandez’s winning streak came to an end Saturday night because he wasn’t sharp, lost command after twisting his left ankle — and because the Seattle Mariners couldn’t bail him out in a 4-2 loss to Boston at Safeco Field.
Hernandez had won his first six decisions this season, had won seven in a row dating to last year and had won his last four decisions against the Red Sox over the last four seasons.
What happened Saturday was the law of averages, maybe. More likely, it had something to do with his troublesome ankle, although Hernandez pointedly dismissed any connection.
“Not at all,” he insisted. “The whole game, I fell behind a lot of times (in the count). My command wasn’t there.”
No connection? You decide.
The Mariners had just pulled even at 2-2 on Brad Miller’s second homer against Boston starter Rick Porcello when Hernandez came up wincing after his second pitch to Pablo Sandoval in the sixth inning.
Hernandez underwent a quick examination by assistant trainer Rob Nodine, then soldiered on and retired Sandoval on a grounder to second. But Hernandez walked the next two hitters and wasn’t close on some pitches.
“He told me he was OK,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “but I’m not sure it didn’t affect him a little bit with his command. He seemed to lose his command after that a little bit. It was a tough sixth inning.”
Those two walks came back to bite Hernandez when Blake Swihart flicked an RBI double into left center for a 3-2 lead. At that point, the Mariners’ bullpen stirred to life when Joe Beimel began loosening.
When Hernandez loaded the bases by walking Jackie Bradley Jr., which also turned over the Boston lineup, the Mariners responded by sending out pitching coach Rick Waits for a chat.
Hernandez pitched on.
McClendon said: “I trusted that he would get us out of that inning.”
A diving stop by first baseman Logan Morrison snatched extra bases away from Brock Holt, but another run scored. The Red Sox led 4-2. Hernandez finally ended the inning by retiring Dustin Pedroia on a grounder to short.
Two runs one one hit and three walks. It would have been worse if not for Morrison’s play. Hernandez (6-1) had not give up more than three runs in any of his seven previous starts. Only once did he give up more than two.
“He’s human,” said Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, who hit a homer against Hernandez in the third inning.
“Trust me, he’s not trying to walk anyone. It was late in the game, he’s thrown a lot of pitches, and I kind of saw him limping a little bit. Maybe that’s why he walked three guys.
“Who knows? He’s having a (heck) of a season. That’s one guy I want pitching for me.”
Four runs were sufficient for Porcello (4-2) and the Boston bullpen. Porcello gave up those two homers to Miller but nothing further in 62/3 innings.
“You know who’s pitching on the other side,” Porcello said, “but at the end of the day, you’ve got a game plan and you’re just thinking about that. You're not pitching against the other pitcher.
“Our offense did a great job against him, and the bullpen did the rest.”
Lefty Tommy Layne replaced Porcello and retired three consecutive left-handed hitters — Seth Smith, Miller and Robinson Cano — before Junichi Tazawa did what he couldn’t do Friday: retire Nelson Cruz.
That got the game to the ninth and Koji Uehara, who got the last three outs for his ninth save. The Mariners now need a victory Sunday to gain a split in the four-game series.
Miller’s two homers offset homers by Pablo Sandoval and Ortiz, but the Mariners managed just three other hits.
“Ricky (Porcello) threw a nice ballgame,” McClendon said, “but listen, we can’t make everyone Cy Young. We’re just not swinging the bats the way we’re capable of swinging them.
“I have full confidence that we’ll come out of it. Right now, we’re just not swinging the way we’re capable of doing it.”
Neither Hernandez nor McClendon expected Hernandez’s ankle to affect his next scheduled start. McClendon said: “I think we’ll reevaluate (Sunday), but I’m sure he’s going to be OK, though.”
Hernandez was more emphatic.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m used to this.”