SEATTLE -- If the Mariners are going to make a run in the second half, this was the Felix Hernandez they'll need to lead the way. Unfortunately for Seattle, however, a return of the old Felix yielded a familiar fate as lack of run support resulted in a 4-1 loss
SEATTLE -- If the Mariners are going to make a run in the second half, this was the Felix Hernandez they'll need to lead the way. Unfortunately for Seattle, however, a return of the old Felix yielded a familiar fate as lack of run support resulted in a 4-1 loss to the Yankees in Thursday's series opener at Safeco Field.
Hernandez did his part, as the 31-year-old fired seven innings of one-run ball with just three hits and set a season high with nine strikeouts.
It was vintage Felix, which is exactly what the Mariners were hoping for as they opened a critical four-game series with the team they're chasing for the second Wild Card spot at the moment.
"He was rolling tonight and it was great to see," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "We're going to need that consistency from him. It's going to be real important for us here as we get deeper into the second half."
Hernandez racked up his 118th career start of at least seven innings while allowing no more than one run. That's the most of any pitcher in the Majors since 2005, with Clayton Kershaw second at 102. With his nine strikeouts, he moved past Hall of Famer Rube Waddell into 48th on the all-time strikeout list with 2,324.
But in the "what have you done for me lately" department, Hernandez's performance was critical as well as he continued looking more and more like the veteran No. 1 starter the Mariners need to contend. In six starts since coming off his two-month stint on the disabled list, Hernandez is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 36 innings.
Along with six scoreless innings with two hits against the A's in his final start prior to the All-Star break, it's beginning to look a lot like old Felix.
"Definitely," Hernandez said. "The last time out in Chicago wasn't that good. I was able to go five innings with one [earned] run, but I was all over the place. Today I was on it, I was locked in and making good pitches."
The one bad pitch was a 2-1 fastball to Brett Gardner that he left up and over the plate in the sixth that wound up in the right-field seats. And with young All-Star Luis Severino throwing seven innings of shutout ball on the other side, that was enough to leave Hernandez on the short end.
"I felt good, but it was a tough loss for us," he said. "When you face a guy like Severino today, you can't make any mistakes. I made one mistake against Gardner and he hit a homer. I was trying to go sinker down and away and it didn't sink. But everything else felt good."
Hernandez struck out budding Yankee star Aaron Judge twice, walked him once and left an impression on the youngster.
"He's got good stuff," Judge said. "He doesn't have the 97, 98 [mph] he used to have, but he's still a great pitcher. He knows how to use the stuff that he has. He's got it up to 92. That changeup is still working really well. He's able to work in that slider and curveball really well. He was on tonight and able to keep our hitters off balance."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.