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Felix can't keep Giants' powerful bats at bay

Mariners ace struggles with command after fine OD outing
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SAN FRANCISCO -- Much of the Mariners' hopes this season lie on the return to prominence of Felix Hernandez. But after a strong outing in an Opening Day win, the longtime ace followed up with a lack-of-command performance on Wednesday in a 10-1 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.

The Mariners dropped to 3-2 as they split the two-game Interleague series before heading now to chilly Minnesota to face a Twins team in its home-opening series at Target Field.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Much of the Mariners' hopes this season lie on the return to prominence of Felix Hernandez. But after a strong outing in an Opening Day win, the longtime ace followed up with a lack-of-command performance on Wednesday in a 10-1 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.

The Mariners dropped to 3-2 as they split the two-game Interleague series before heading now to chilly Minnesota to face a Twins team in its home-opening series at Target Field.

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With his fastball velocity having gradually declined each year since PitchTracker began recording such things in 2008 when his average was 95.5 mph, Hernandez needs to be sharp with his array of offspeed offerings and spot his fastball on the corners.

But Hernandez struggled from the start against a Giants club that had scored just six runs in its first five games, allowing eight runs in four-plus innings and six hits -- including a trio of home runs -- along with five walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.

"Zero command of my fastball," said Hernandez, who will make his next start on Monday at Kansas City. "I fell behind most of the time. When you're behind and have to come down the middle, it hurts. And that's what happened."

The five walks were the most issued by Hernandez since July 31, 2016, against the Cubs in a five-inning, eight-strikeout outing. Eight earned runs matched the second-most allowed by Hernandez in his career. He gave up 10 in 2 1/3 innings on Aug. 15, 2015, at Fenway Park and he has now allowed eight in a game three times -- twice previously in 2013 and '15 -- out of 377 starts.

In other words, it all added up to a very un-King-like start for Hernandez, who had shrugged off an injury-shortened spring to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings with just two hits allowed in his season-opening win over the Indians.

Manager Scott Servais acknowledged that a Spring Training limited to eight innings might have caught up to Hernandez, who got out of sync mechanically and never was able to reel things back in.

"We knew going into this, we brought him back the way we did for Opening Night at our place that there could be some hiccups along the way," Servais said. "But seeing Felix as much as I have the last couple years, he's usually really quick at making adjustments and tonight he wasn't able to do that."

Video: SEA@SF: Servais on pitching struggles in loss

Hernandez said he felt fine physically and placed no blame on his abbreviated Cactus League, which was cut short by a line drive off his arm in his first outing. But his velocity was down a couple ticks from Opening Night.

"No concern," Servais said. "It's mechanical. When you're rushing and your arm is dragging behind, it's hard to generate and drive the ball down hill and stay behind it. More than anything, it was mechanical tonight."

Hernandez's fastball was topping out at 89-90 mph in the windy late afternoon game, but his command clearly was the biggest issue. He walked two batters in the first -- including Pablo Sandoval with the bases loaded -- while giving up three runs on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly.

Then the long ball kicked in as Hernandez gave up a solo shot to Gorkys Hernandez in the second, a leadoff blast by Brandon Belt in the fifth and -- following two more walks -- an outing-ending three-run splash into the bay by Sandoval.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cutch with the big catch: The Mariners trailed, 4-0, in the third, but they were threatening to put together a rally against Johnny Cueto with two on and two out when Kyle Seager ripped a line drive to the gap in right-center. But Andrew McCutchen got a good jump on the ball and made a 3-star catch on a ball with a 55-percent catch probability, according to Statcast™, to end the inning. The Mariners totaled 10 hits and are batting .282 on the season, but a 1-for-12 effort with runners in scoring position neutralized that effort on this night. More >

Video: SEA@SF: McCutchen sprints for a catch in right

"We did create a lot of traffic out there," Servais said. "The ball Seager hit in the gap when we were down, 4-0, and Cutch made the nice play, if that ball gets in it changes kind of the direction of the game. But it happens. It's baseball and it's early in the season. But our at-bats for the most part have been really good."

Vogelbach checks in: After making the team with a huge spring, rookie first baseman Daniel Vogelbach started 0-for-5 while getting limited time behind starter Ryon Healy. But Vogelbach got his first start at first base against the Giants and went 2-for-4 with his RBI double to the opposite field in the sixth driving in Seattle's lone run.

Video: SEA@SF: Vogelbach plates Cano on a double to left

"I thought Vogey swung the ball very well tonight," Servais said. "He even had a good at-bat against the lefty there late. It's nice to see he's continued swinging the bat really well and his confidence is at an all-time high now as far as we've seen him. He'll continue to get more chances."

QUOTABLE
"That was a slider that didn't break. When it doesn't break, it's going a long way." -- Hernandez, on the home run by Gorkys Hernandez

Video: SEA@SF: Hernandez launches a solo home run to center

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Right fielder Mitch Haniger went 1-for-2 and walked twice, improving his MLB-leading on-base percentage to .600. The 27-year-old is batting .467 (7-for-16) with four walks and a hit-by-pitch in five games.

WHAT'S NEXT
Left-hander James Paxton, who gave up six hits and six runs in 4 2/3 innings in his season debut against the Indians, will look to bounce back at 1:10 p.m. PT on Thursday against the Twins in their home opener at Target Field. Paxton is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three prior starts against Minnesota..

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger, Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Kyle Seager, Daniel Vogelbach