How Felix Hernandez remains in the Seattle Mariners rotation after this … there might not be an argument left anymore.
This got ugly, out of hand and had the Mariners’ all-time strikeouts King again frustrated and grasping for answers, which might now have to come while he transitions to the bullpen.
Hernandez allowed a career-high 11 runs against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday and all 11 came in the final four innings he pitched in the Mariners’ 11-4 loss at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Yes, Hernandez had never before seen a team put up 11 runs on him, though four of those runs were unearned because of two errors on Kyle Seager at third base, the first time he’s had two errors in a game since April 24 against the White Sox.
But that’s the third time this year Hernandez has allowed at least seven earned runs in a start. That hadn’t previously happened since 2015.
“What can I say?” Hernandez told reporters afterward. “I can’t say anything. I was trying to put zeroes up on the board but I couldn’t do it today.
“I’m frustrated. That’s all I can say.”
The Mariners (65-49) can still win the three-game series against the Rangers on Wednesday before a four-game series at the American League West-leading Houston Astros begins Thursday.
Mariners manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto had stressed over Hernandez’s past two starts that his spot in the rotation going forward would be re-evaluated after each time he took the mound. He allowed two runs in five innings in a loss last week against the Blue Jays, but he did well enough despite laboring to warrant another turn.
Tough to say the same after this one, though Servais told reporters they’ll discuss Hernandez’s role over the next few days and make a decision before his next scheduled start Sunday against the Astros.
“We have to give ourselves a chance every time out there,” Servais said. “Our pitching has carried us all season long, but having that chance to stay in the game and having a chance in every game is so key here as we move down the stretch in the last 6-7 weeks of the season.”
Hernandez retired the first six batters he faced, including getting one of his best friends, Adrian Beltre, to offer a very awkward swing at a filthy curveball that darted from the top into the zone for a strikeout.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This was just FILTHY <a href="https://t.co/P6TWomQ02R">pic.twitter.com/P6TWomQ02R</a></p>— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) <a href="https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1027022648419774464?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 8, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hernandez was laughing, Beltre offered a wry smile, and Hernandez pointed his former teammate back into the direction of the Rangers dugout.
Contrast that to the fifth inning.
Beltre put the nail in Hernandez’s coffin with a solo home run off of him to center field, the second homer Hernandez had allowed in the inning. That came after center fielder Cameron Maybin leaped into the center-field wall for an out the previous batter and Rougned Odor crushed a 90-mph sinker way over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.
“I lost command of the fastball,” Hernandez said. “Left balls in the middle of the plate and made a lot of mistakes and that was it. You can see the results.”
An inning earlier Hernandez served up a three-run homer to Jurickson Profar after Seager’s second error gave the Rangers two runners on with two outs. He was seen putting his arm around Hernandez in the dugout afterward and he said he was telling Hernandez how he messed up.
Seager had committed one error combined over his previous 22 games before Tuesday.
Seager shouldered the blame to reporters afterward.
“That can’t happen,” Seager said of his errors. “You always want to catch everything but when your guy is out there really battling and really working hard for you, you got to back him up. And I didn’t do that tonight.”
Hernandez appeared to tweak his ankle on a play covering first base when he stepped awkwardly on the bag. He hadn’t allowed a run before things quickly turned after that.
Hernandez didn’t use that for an excuse.
“Wasn’t my ankle,” he said. “Just me.”
Hernandez’s ERA is at a career-high 5.73 – his previous career high for a season was 4.52 in his first full major league season in 2006. He’s won the American League’s ERA title two times in his 14-year career (2.27 ERA in Cy Young 2010, 2.14 ERA in 2013).
He’s now 8-10 this season and has a 7.27 ERA over his past seven starts (33 runs, 28 earned runs, 34 2/3 innings).
Servais was more concerned with the process than the results.
“Errors happen. They are part of the game and you have to grind through it,” Servais said. “He wasn’t able to make pitches after that.
“We’ll see where we’re at and continue to talk about it and go forward from there.”
A few takeaways:
What about Felix?
So what are the Mariners’ options? Where do they go from here with their King and all-time strikeouts leader.
Hernandez with a strikeout in the sixth inning, tied Jamie Moyer on MLB’s all-time strikeout list with 2,441 for his career, which is tied for 41st in baseball history. Hernandez has the fourth-most strikeouts of any active pitcher, behind his Rangers’ counterpart, 45-year-old Bartolo Colon (2,526), Justin Verlander (2,620) and CC Sabathia (2,933).
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who was projected to open the season as the Mariners’ No. 4 starter and has been on the disabled list since the end of April, tossed his fourth rehab start on Sunday trying to return from a right teres major strain. With Triple-A Tacoma, Ramirez allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits in four innings on 81 pitches.
Ramirez has allowed four earned runs over 13 innings pitched in his four starts.
Maybe the Mariners move Hernandez into a bullpen role while they allow him to keep working with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and high performance director Lorena Martin between starts to get himself right, though they’d have to make room on the 25-man roster for Ramirez. Doing that and still keeping Hernandez would complicate things in the bullpen.
But maybe Hernandez’s sprained ankle was enough of a concern to send him to the disabled list (or an excuse).
Hernandez can block an assignment to the minor leagues because he has more than five years of major league service. He’s still owed the final two years of his seven-year, $175 million contract that expires at the end of 2019.
It all began so well for the Mariners. Hernandez rolled through the first two innings, Nelson Cruz jumped on a 2-1, 86-mph fastball from Bartolo Colon for a solo home run and Kyle Seager followed one batter later with his own home run.
Just like Sunday, Cruz and Seager had gone back-to-back jacks.
That gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead before they made it 3-0 on triples from Dee Gordon and Denard Span in the top of the third inning.
Cruz’s home run was his 30th of the season, his fifth consecutive season with at least 30 home runs and he’s done that in each of his four seasons with the Mariners.
The only players in Mariners history to do that are Cruz and Ken Griffey Jr.
Seager’s homer was his 19th of the season and third in the past three days after he hadn’t previously homered since July 4.
Shortstop Jean Segura got the day off Tuesday and Mariners manager Scott Servais said it had in part to do with Segura’s slumping bat.
Segura was almost the All-Star Game MVP, but since the midsummer classic Segura entered Tuesday batting .200 (13-for-65) with two extra-base hits (a double and a home run) and a .221 on-base percentage in 16 games.
The Mariners were 7-9 in those games.
Play of the game
The coolest play was Cameron Maybin doing his best Ken Griffey Jr. impersonation in the sixth inning, leaping and crashing into the wall in center field to take away a hard hit from Elvis Andrus.
But the game blew open in the fifth inning on Jurickson Profar’s three-run home run to give the Rangers an 8-4 lead.
All three of those runs were unearned after Kyle Seager’s error on a ground ball his way the batter before.
Felix Hernandez and Bartolo Colon had a combined for more than 6,000 career innings and this was the seventh time they’ve faced off in their careers, Hernandez the 32-year-old and Colon the 45-year-old.
Colon allowed four runs in seven innings with no walks and a strikeout, lowering his season ERA to 5.18. Hernandez allowed 11 runs (seven earned) in six innings with four walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts with three home runs allowed.
Chasen Bradford relieved Hernandez and pitched two scoreless innings of relief.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor continues his rise. He went 2-for-5 with a two-run home run (it was absolutely crushed in the sixth inning, when Servais ran Hernandez out for another inning despite the Mariners trailing 8-4).
Odor also hit a double and finished with four RBI.
Since June 20, Odor is hitting .324 with a .409 on-base percentage and 12 home runs in 38 games.