The Seattle Mariners (18-14) dropped a 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1. NO DECISION FOR FELIX
Former Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, making his sixth start in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, exited for the third time this season without a decision.
Hernandez (1-2, 4.31 ERA) hasn’t notched a win since his first start of the season on April 1. Three no-decisions and two losses in his next five starts have followed. He hasn’t allowed more than four runs in any outing.
Tuesday, he pitched six innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on eight hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. He threw 96 pitches, and twice gave up go-ahead home runs to Daniel Descalso (solo, first inning) and Anthony Rizzo (two-run, fifth).
“I thought Felix gave us a chance,” Servais said. “He kept us in the ballgame. He had a good curveball again tonight. He gets eight strikeouts which is great to see. They touched him for a few runs, but overall I thought he competed very well.
“He got through the sixth inning. I thought the sixth inning was one of his best innings of the ballgame. He continues to throw the ball well and roll.”
Hernandez recorded eight strikeouts for the second consecutive appearance. He also had eight in his last start in San Diego, when he worked seven innings, allowing one run on three hits in a loss.
“I’m just following (catcher Omar Narvaez),” Hernandez said. “Every time he calls a pitch, I just throw it. We’ve got a pretty good plan. ... We talk a lot. We talk pretty good. We know the game plan. I follow him, he follows me sometimes. We talk in the dugout.”
What do a pair of eight-strikeout performances say about where Hernandez is this season?
“I’ve still got it,” he said, smiling. “I’m feeling pretty good, that’s the main thing. My body feels good, arm feels good, pitches are doing what they’re supposed to do.”
He is four punch-outs shy of reaching 2,500 for his career, and will have a chance to eclipse that mark during the Mariners’ upcoming road series’ in New York and Boston.
2. SCHWARBER SOLVES CHANGEUP
Brandon Brennan’s changeup is one of the most effective weapons Seattle’s bullpen has this season, but Kyle Schwarber got a piece of Brennan’s punch-out pitch Tuesday night.
The Mariners were clinging to a 5-4 lead in the eighth before Willson Contreras knocked a one-out double to center. Schwarber then clobbered Brennan’s 1-0 changeup 440 feet to right to give the Cubs the decisive 6-5 advantage.
“I was just trying to put it down instead of letting it go right down the middle, but he was definitely sitting on it, and got a pretty good piece of it,” Brennan said. “I’m pretty sure everyone in the stadium knew the ball was gone off the bat.”
“I knew his best pitch was the changeup,” Schwarber said. “And I am not going to lie, I had it maybe in the back of my mind. ... It wasn’t his best one.”
Despite the blunder, Servais emphasized after the game how efficient Brennan (1-2, 1.96 ERA) has been across his 15 outings.
“Brennan’s been awesome. He really has,” Servais said. “Off to a great start with us. A really good month. He gets the two quick outs in the eighth and then Contreras jumps on the first-pitch double. ... We’d done a pretty good job against Schwarber all night, he just left a changeup in a bad spot and Schwarber was all over it.
“Brennan’s competed very well. He’s continuing to learn on the job, so to speak, at the major league level. He’s a rookie, and he just made a mistake, and we paid for it tonight.”
3. PARROT RIDES AGAIN
Edwin Encarnacion belted a tie-breaking solo home run 418 feet to left field in the seventh inning to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead at that point.
It was Encarnacion’s eighth homer of the season, and pushed Seattle’s MLB-leading total to 60 through 32 games. Jay Bruce continues to lead the Mariners with nine long balls this season, while Encarnacion and Daniel Vogelbach each have eight.
“I feel good,” Encarnacion said. “I feel healthy and will try to keep helping my team to win.”
Encarnacion now has 388 career home runs, and is one of 11 active players in the majors who have hit at least 300 in their careers.
“There’s a reason this guy’s got almost 400 home runs in this league,” Servais said. “He’s really patient at the plate. He knows what pitches he can handle and he seems like he always puts a good swing on it.
“Doesn’t always get a great result, but the swing is always there. He’s very aggressive when he’s hacking at it, and you love to see him up there in big spots. Huge home run tonight to get us right there.”