Seattle's ace struck out 11 and allowed just two runs on four hits in seven-plus innings, and the A's came up short in an eighth-inning rally in a 6-4 defeat that featured spotty defense behind lefty starter Tommy Milone.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the A's, who had plated 27 runs in that span before freezing against Hernandez, now 17-7 with a 2.60 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 31 career starts vs. Oakland.
"You just try to hold on and wear him out and get him out of the game and try to beat somebody else," manager Bob Melvin said.
They had their chances.
"Tonight he definitely gave us some pitches to hit," said Josh Donaldson, who was 1-for-3 off Hernandez. "We weren't able to take advantage of it as often as we wanted to, but even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's really smart. He's hard to follow throughout the at-bat and what he's gonna do. We're going to face him again sometime this year, and we need to do a better job of scoring off him early."
Hernandez didn't allow a baserunner until one out into the fourth, when Jed Lowrie singled and Donaldson followed with an infield base hit, but they would both be stranded, and so would two more Oakland runners in the fifth.
The A's stayed off the board until the eighth, when Fernandez hit the first batter he faced, Daric Barton, and offered up a hit to Eric Sogard before being pulled. Both would score, and Seattle's fourth pitcher of the inning, Charlie Furbush, allowed another run in on Yoenis Cespedes' RBI forceout grounder. A wild pitch brought home Lowrie, but the scoring would stop there -- even after John Jaso led off the ninth with a pinch-hit double.
"We get a couple guys on base, we always feel like we have a chance to get a crooked number up there," Melvin said. "And when Felix comes out of the game, it's kind of a breath of fresh air for us. We're one swing away from tying the game."
Perhaps the ending is a different one, though, with better defense, as back-to-back errors by Donaldson and Lowrie in the fourth led to two unearned runs. Even Seattle's first run could have potentially been avoided, with Barton caught in a holding pattern at first base on a weak ground ball from Robinson Cano with runners at first and third that scored Abraham Almonte.
"That's not a hit," Melvin said. "You give a guy a hit when we could've gotten an out at three different bases is ridiculous. You take a look at second to try to get the double play and don't have a grip on it, you try to get the out at home. You don't get the out at home, you better get the out at first. Barton's a very good defensive first baseman, but that wasn't his best play."
"Tommy pitched great," said Donaldson, "but we didn't help him out on defense. Early on, we made him throw way too many pitches, a couple miscues, and I have a play I normally make and don't. Tommy did his thing tonight and still gave us a chance to win. He did his job; we need to pick him up better on defense, because we know he's going to force contact."
Milone, making his season debut, allowed a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the sixth, ending his night. The lefty was charged with five runs, but just three earned, in his five-plus innings, and he walked none and struck out seven.
"It's tough to look at that outing and be happy about it, I guess, but it's just good to get back out there and compete," Milone said. "Errors are part of the game; you just have to shake it off and continue to make pitches. That's it. I felt like I threw the ball well. The results just weren't there."
"We didn't play very well early in the game, and Tommy pitched way better than his line would suggest," Melvin said. "But you have to move on, and we did. You can dissect any part of the game, but we were sloppy early on, no question."
Seattle's final run came on Brad Miller's solo shot to dead center off Drew Pomeranz in the sixth. Right-hander Jim Johnson, removed from the closer's role just a day before, pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts for the A's.