SEATTLE — As if the Mariners didn’t have enough to worry about — or freak out over, depending on your viewpoint — now comes a troublesome bout of mortality for Felix Hernandez.
The Mariners on Saturday were looking for King Felix to halt a long slump, as he has done so many times. But on a night in which the Mariners feted his 2012 perfect game with a bobblehead giveaway and packed the King’s Court, Hernandez had an imperfect showing in Seattle’s 5-2 loss to the Rangers.
Their losing streak thus reached eight games, but of more immediate concern is the fact that the Rangers touched Hernandez for 11 hits and five runs in 5-2/3 shaky innings. He did strike out nine, but over his last two starts, Hernandez has given up 19 hits and 13 runs (12 earned) in 10-2/3 innings.
His earned-run average, which stood at a stately 1.53 after a May 14 start at Yankee Stadium, has shot up to 2.51. May has never been a great month for Hernandez — in 43 career starts in May heading into this one, he had a 12-21 record and 4.44 ERA, by far his worst showing of any month.
But this May had been going just great for Hernandez until that start against the Yankees, in which he left after six innings with lower back tightness. This time out, in front of 35,022 fans — the biggest crowd at Safeco since the home opener — he failed to retire the Rangers in order in any inning, and gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz in the fifth.
The results could have been even worse. The Rangers lost a run on a brilliant block of home plate by catcher Kelly Shoppach in the second inning to cut down A.J. Pierzynski, and had a rally cut short by a great leaping catch at the center field wall by Michael Saunders on a drive by David Murphy in the fourth
Murphy still did considerable damage, however. He had a two-out, two-run double to cap a three-run second by Texas. That was the second time in as many starts Hernandez has allowed three runs in an inning, after not giving up a three-run inning in his first nine starts this season.
Murphy also drove in the last run charged to Hernandez with a two-out single off reliever Oliver Perez in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Rangers starter Derek Holland threatens to replace Joe Saunders as the reigning Safeco Field dominator. He came into the game with a 2-0 record and 16.2 scoreless innings in two previous starts at Safeco, and limited the Mariners to four hits over 6-2/3 innings in this one.