Peralta became the first Brewers pitcher to lose a complete game in seven years, burned by two mistakes over eight otherwise excellent innings in a 2-0 loss to Hernandez and the Mariners at Safeco Field. The Brewers settled for winning two of three games in their first regular-season visit to Seattle in 16 years.
"Best right-handed pitcher I've ever faced in my life," Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado said of Hernandez. "We don't face those guys for the Tigers [Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer ], but you can't see any pitch from Hernandez.
"He's got four pitches, four plusses."
Over eight scoreless innings, Hernandez silenced a Brewers' offense that had scored 10 runs in each of the series' first two games. He allowed only four hits and one walk, struck out nine batters and did not allow a runner past first base after the second inning.
If the Brewers were going to get to Hernandez, they would have had to do so in the second inning, when a walk and a Juan Francisco double put runners at second and third with one out. But Jeff Bianchi struck out swinging at a fastball in the dirt, Scooter Gennett popped the first pitch to shortstop and Hernandez was on the way to his ninth consecutive quality start.
"He's an unbelievable pitcher," Peralta said. "Nothing straight. Everything moving. It's tough when I think I did a great job -- I think he did better."
The 24-year-old Peralta, a self-described King Felix fan, was nearly as good, retiring the first six batters he faced before a Mariners run in the third inning gave Seattle its first lead in the series. Dustin Ackley led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout and then scored when Peralta bounced a pitch in the dirt. Maldonado quickly retrieved the ball and flipped to Peralta covering home plate, but too late to catch the sliding Ackley.
Two innings later, Peralta threw a 1-0 fastball high in the zone to Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, who made it 2-0 with his 13th home run. Peralta said the pitch slipped out of his hand.
"You can't make a mistake when you face a guy like [Hernandez]," Peralta said. "It's, 'Who will make a mistake first?' I made it first, so that's it for the game."
"Some ups and downs the past few days," said acting Mariners manager Robby Thompson, "but a nice outing again by Felix."
Peralta gave the Brewers' bullpen a rest by scattering four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in the eight-inning, complete-game loss. Along with his three-hit shutout of the Reds on July 9, Peralta became the first Brewers pitcher to throw multiple complete games in the same season since Yovani Gallardo in 2010, and took the first complete-game loss for a Brewers pitcher since Chris Capuano on July 31, 2006, at the Rockies.
It continued a stunning turnaround for Peralta, who is in his first full Major League season. When he took the mound at Miller Park against the Braves on June 21, Peralta was 4-8 with a 6.08 ERA through 15 starts and 80 innings, with an opponents' batting average over .300.
In the 10 starts since, including Sunday, Peralta's ERA is 2.10 (15 earned runs in 64 1/3 innings), and he has pitched into the seventh inning or longer six times.
"He had a couple of games before that [in which] he was good, but I thought it was because his fastball was just overpowering down in the zone with movement," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But he's turning into a pitcher.
"You look at Hernandez and what he did. Here's a guy who used to throw 95-98 [mph], used to blow it by everybody. Now, he's just as good a pitcher, but he doesn't have to throw that hard anymore. He's learned how to pitch and maneuver the ball around. It never seems to be straight. You can still be as effective without having to blow it by everyone."
The key, Peralta said, has been his slider, a pitch he had working during a successful stint with the Brewers last September. He had been struggling with it from the start of this year.
"I've been working on that all season long, to get my slider back," Peralta said. "It's my second-best pitch. Between starts, I've been working on it, and I'm getting more confidence throwing it. I've been locating it both sides of the plate. Since then, I've been better."
Fellow right-hander Kyle Lohse has played a part, helping, Peralta said, with "a lot with the mental stuff, focus in the game. He's been helping a lot."
"I've talked to him about getting in your approach and staying within it," Lohse said. "We've talked about when you get frustrated, you can't show that. It looks like he's taking it pitch to pitch now and things aren't bothering him. It's fun to watch him do what he's been doing."
"I think it takes a lot of starts and a lot of innings to figure out things, and he's starting to get it, along with the confidence," Roenicke said. "When you get in a tight spot, it's not always, 'throw it as hard as you can.' He's starting to figure those things out, and hopefully he continues to grow that way."