Not that it’s any comfort, but Felix Hernandez isn’t the first King to encounter problems on July 4.
Hernandez gave up six runs in six innings Tuesday on an other glorious holiday afternoon in a 7-3 loss to Kansas City at Safeco Field.
"I felt unbelievable today," Hernandez said. "I felt really good in the bullpen. I felt really good physically. But it happens. That’s baseball. That’s the way it is."
And it was that way from the start.
One pitch in, the Mariners were in a 1-0 hole when Whit Merrifield jumped an 89-mph fastball from Hernandez for a 387-foot homer to left.
The Royals put runners at first and second with two outs, but third baseman Kyle Seager ended the inning with a diving catch on Mike Moustakas’ soft liner.
The Mariners answered with two runs in their first against lefty Danny Duffy, who was making his first start since suffering a strained left oblique on May 28 in Cleveland.
Jean Segura and Danny Valencia led off with singles and went to second and third on Robinson Cano’s grounder to first.
Nelson Cruz just missed his first homer since June 4 on a drive to right-center field and settled for a two-run single.
"I thought we would put a little more pressure on Duffy," manager Scott Servais said. "It was his first game back, coming off the rehab. We got a couple of runs early, and then he kind of settled in."
It was mostly downhill from there.
The Royals scored three runs in the fourth inning and twice in the fifth against Hernandez (3-3) and sent the Mariners to their seventh loss in nine games.
The Mariners are three games under .500, at 41-44, with five games remaining until the All-Star break. Just over a week ago, they were two games over .500 and surging.
"It’s tough," outfielder Jarrod Dyson said, "when you get behind the eight-ball to get out front again."
Kansas City regained the lead on Moustakas’ two-run homer in the fourth inning. Brandon Moss followed with a double to deep center, which turned into another run when Cano booted Alex Gordon’s two-out grounder.
Hernandez’s problems deepened in the fifth when he issued a pair of walks. Both runners scored on Salvy Perez’s hard double into the left-field corner, and the Royals led 6-2.
"I made a mistake against Moustakas," Hernandez said, "and I made a mistake against Salvy. They made me pay. It was my mechanics. A little bit. I was flying open. My arm slot was lower that what I want.
"The fastball was running. I didn't have good command."
Duffy (5-4) lasted until two outs in the sixth, when the Royals summoned Peter Moylan for right-on-right matchup against Mitch Haniger with runners at second and third.
The Mariners countered by replacing Haniger with Ben Gamel. It didn’t work. Gamel struck out.
A throwing error by Hosmer in the seventh inning on a potential double-play grounder provided the Mariners with a second-and-third opportunity with one out.
Segura’s third single of the game scored one run, but that’s all they got. Valencia grounded into a double play.
Kansas City closed the scoring with a run in the ninth after Gamel couldn’t hold Bonifacio’s two-out drive after colliding with the wall. The result was a triple. Bonifacio then scored on a wild pitch.
"Our guys are pressing a little bit," Servais said. "They know it’s important that we finish on a high note heading into the break. It’s just not happening right now."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Center fielder Guillermo Heredia held onto Gordon’s deep two-out drive in the second inning after slamming into the wall.
PLUS: Segura’s four hits raised his average to .342…Cruz reached base four times in his return to the lineup. He had two singles, a walk and was hit by a pitch…Gamel broke a 0-for-13 slide with an infield single in the eighth inning…
MINUS: The Mariners don’t have an extra-base hit in the series…Cano’s error was his fourth of the season. He had three total in 2016. He was also hitless in four at-bats…Seager was 0-for-4 with three weak-looking strikeouts.
STAT PACK: When Hernandez struck out Bonifacio in the third inning, he became the 50th pitcher in Major League history to reach 2,300 in his career. Hernandez ended the game at 2,302. That leaves him one shy of Juan Marichal (2,303) for 49th place.
QUOTABLE: The Royals have win 17 of their last 23.
"The Royals have some momentum going," Servais said, "and are playing good ball. And we’re not. We need to get some momentum going."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners have lost six straight games on Independence Day for an all-time record of 16-23…Cruz’s two RBIs pushed his season count to 61 and moved him ahead of Cano (60) for the club lead. The Mariners are the only American League team with two players who have 60 or more RBIs.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Royals conclude their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-4 with a 3.82 ERA) will oppose Kansas City lefty (an one-time Mariner) Jason Vargas (12-3, 2.22).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners