Hernandez was limited to 54 pitches in his first start since July 31 -- he has been out due to bursitis in his right shoulder -- but the former American League Cy Young Award winner looked pretty sharp, considering he didn't have any Minor League rehab starts to freshen up. He allowed three hits with no walks and three strikeouts before turning things over to the bullpen.
"I felt pretty good. I'm happy with that," Hernandez said. "I'm just trying to do my job. Just trying to help this team win, contribute and be out there with them. It was awesome."
With James Paxton due back from the disabled list as well for Friday's series opener in Houston, the Mariners will have their top two starters back for three and possibly four starts before the regular season ends. That can only help bolster a team that sits 3 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot with 15 games to go.
"He threw strikes. That was the big thing," said manager Scott Servais. "He got them in swing mode to keep the pitch count in check so we get as much out of him as we could. I was hoping for three innings, and we got a little more than that. I thought he threw the ball well."
Hernandez said he hoped to extend to about 75 pitches in his next outing, which will come during Seattle's next homestand, as he builds up as quickly as possible.
The veteran was hitting 91-92 mph with his fastball -- which is where he was topping out earlier this season when healthy -- and struck out Delino DeShields and Shin-Soo Choo to end the third with his notoriously nasty changeup.
"I was just trying to make pitches early, get ground balls and quick outs," Hernandez said. "I didn't want to be out in the second inning and kill the bullpen. I was trying to be out there as long as I can, so I threw a lot of sinkers. Good changeup and curveball.
"It was good. A lot of strikes. That was the most important thing. That's what I need, just attack the hitters."
Hernandez retired the Rangers in order in the first and third, with his only trouble coming in the second, when Joey Gallo pushed a one-out single to left past the Mariners' shift and Robinson Chirinos laced a double down the third-base line that Kyle Seager couldn't quite get a glove on.
That set up a sacrifice fly for Rougned Odor before Hernandez struck out Mike Napoli to end the frame. With Servais setting about a 50-pitch limit in his first start back, Hernandez got the first two outs in the fourth before a double by Gallo ended his night.
Reliever Ryan Garton got the final out of the fourth before Andrew Albers threw the final five innings to earn the win.