CLEVELAND — It is a testament to Felix Hernandez that the Mariners are scrambling to correct a perceived flaw in his mechanics when he has allowed just two earned runs over 18 innings in his three starts.
"He hasn’t been in a real good place with his delivery, with his mechanics, yet," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "You see him, he gets off to the side with the ball.
"We’re just trying to minimize how many pitches it takes to get him reeled back in and get back on top of the ball."
Added manager Scott Servais: "It isn’t quite as easy for him. It happens to everyone in this league at some point. You pay a little more attention to details and things that can give you an edge."
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Stottlemyre and Servais have a point, certainly. Hernandez has allowed 13 walks in his 18 innings and, as Servais notes: "It’s hard to survive in this league when you’re walking that many people. He knows it."
True enough. Hernandez recognized the need for some adjustments prior to his scheduled start Friday night at Anaheim after walking at least five batters in two of his first three starts.
Hernandez had done that only 11 times in his previous 10 seasons.
"The ball was going everywhere," he said last Saturday after matching a career-worst with six walks in five innings at New York. "I’ve just got to tighten up my mechanics and be ready for my next outing."
Stottlemyre convinced Hernandez to try correcting those flaws in bullpen workouts, which Hernandez has mostly shunned throughout his career because he prefers long-toss sessions between starts.
"We’ve looked into his routine," Stottlemyre said. "He likes to throw a lot of long toss, which I’m a proponent of. Sometimes, I think it might be a bit much. I’ve talked to him about saving bullets for game day.
"But, look, it’s kept him healthy. I have to respect that. This guy is into his 11th year in the big leagues. He knows himself way more so than I know him. So I have to listen."
Hernandez enters his start Friday against the Angels on the verge of a franchise record for strikeouts. He currently shares the record with Randy Johnson at 2,162.
That total also ranks third among active pitchers behind CC Sabathia (2,582) of the New York Yankees and Bartolo Colon (2,254) of the New York Mets.
SURVIVING THE FIRST
Mariners starter Nathan Karns avoided the first-inning troubles that so often plague him but couldn’t turn an early five-run cushion into an easy victory.
Karns began the game by yielding a double to Rajai Davis on a hot grounder past third but retired the next three hitters. That boded well: Karns had allowed 29 runs in the first inning of his 33 previous career starts.
"I finally got through a first inning with no damage," he said, "but I can’t say that about the fifth inning."
Karns had a 5-0 lead when, with one out, he gave up a walk and an infield single. He then tried to slip a fastball past Davis — and failed. Davis hit a three-run homer to left.
The Indians then knocked out Karns in a two-run sixth.
"I think he’s right on the edge of taking a step forward," Servais said. "For whatever reason, it just hasn’t quite clicked for him yet. The walks. A couple of pitches up in the zone."
NO LONGER PERFECT, BUT…
The Mariners’ bullpen had not allowed an inherited runner to score before Nick Vincent surrendered an RBI single after replacing Nathan Karns in the sixth inning.
Updated count: nine inherited runners, one scored. Or 11 percent. The major-league average, through Wednesday, was 29 percent.
A year ago, the Mariners’ bullpen permitted 32 percent of inherited runners to score (86 of 265). That ranked 19 among the 30 clubs. They ranked 10th among the 15 AL clubs.
Double-A Jackson is off to a 9-4 start in the Southern League thanks to the sort of consistent production throughout the lineup that is currently lacking on the big-league club.
The Generals currently lead the Southern League in all three slash categories: batting (.289), on-base percentage (.357) and slugging percentage (.399).
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia (.347) has hits in 12 of 13 games, infielder Tim Lopes (.320) and outfielder Tyler O’Neill (.298) have hits in 11 of 12 games, and outfielder Leon Landry (.302) has hits in 10 of 11 games.
It was 23 years ago Friday — April 22, 1993 — that right-hander Chris Bosio pitched the second of four individual no-hitters in Mariners history n a 7-0 victory over Boston at the Kingdome.
Bosio walked the first two batters before getting a double-play grounder that started a string of retiring 26 straight hitters.
The ending was dramatic. Shortstop Omar Vizquel bare-handed a high chopper over the mound by Ernest Riles and threw him out.
The no-hitter came in Bosio’s fourth start with the Mariners, who signed him as a free agent after he spent the seven previous seasons in Milwaukee. He was 27-31 with a 4.43 ERA in four seasons with the Mariners before retiring.
Randy Johnson pitched the franchise’s first no-hitter on June 2, 1990 against Detroit at the Kingdome.
Felix Hernandez had a perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012 against Tampa Bay, and Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a no-hitter on Aug. 12, 2015 against Baltimore. Those gems took place at Safeco Field.
The Mariners also had a combined no-hitter on June 8, 2012, when Kevin Millwood exited after six innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field.
Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen completed the no-hitter.
The Mariners close out their three-city trip with three weekend games against the Angels in Anaheim.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (1-1 with a 1.00 ERA) will start the opener at 7:05 p.m. Friday against Los Angeles right-hander Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.84). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners