Time waning for Hernandez to hit milestones
Ace likely has just three starts remaining to boost numbers
SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez was good, but not perfect on Tuesday, and it cost him a ballgame as the Angels rode two home runs to a 4-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. And now Hernandez will need to be nearly impeccable the remainder of the season in order to reach a couple significant milestones.
Hernandez's loss leaves his record at 17-9 with three starts remaining, meaning he'll need to take care of business the rest of the way in order to join Jamie Moyer and Randy Johnson as the only 20-game winners in Mariners history.
He also notched five strikeouts in his seven-inning stint against the Angels, putting his season totals at 190 innings and 180 strikeouts through 29 starts. He'll need to average seven whiffs in his last three outings to hit 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for seven straight years, which would tie him with Roger Clemens and Walter Johnson for second in MLB history behind the nine such seasons by Tom Seaver.
Hernandez wasn't worrying about those matters Tuesday, however, as he had his hands full with an Angels team that took advantage of a three-run homer by David Murphy in the third and a solo shot by Mike Trout in the sixth.
"This is a funny game," said manager Lloyd McClendon, "because I thought Felix had great stuff tonight. He made two bad pitches and it cost him the ballgame."
Hernandez hadn't lost to the Angels since Aug. 23, 2013, going 6-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 10 games. The King had owned the Halos this year as well with a 3-0 mark in four starts and just two runs allowed in 27 innings. But that all changed with one swing by Murphy that was set up when Hernandez nicked David Freese in the jersey for a hit by pitch leading off the frame, followed by an infield single by Carlos Perez.
"It was a changeup that was down," Hernandez said, "but it was in a spot where he could hit the ball pretty good. I think that was a mistake."
As for Trout, who now has three solo homers against Hernandez this season? Hernandez tried to drive an 0-2 fastball past him up in the zone, but didn't spot it where he wanted.
"He's a low-ball hitter and I'm trying to go up," he said. "It was up, but in the middle. I think he was looking for it."
Hernandez now sits at 17-9 with a 3.55 ERA, two wins shy of his career high and still tied with the Astros' Dallas Keuchel for the most victories in the AL this season.
He'll get his next start Sunday at Texas, then likely face the Angels again in Anaheim before closing out against the A's in the season-ending homestand.
That's three more games against the AL West and even with Tuesday's loss, he's 18-5 with a 2.20 ERA in 33 starts against division foes over the past two years.