The Seattle Mariners and Felix Hernandez walked into the path of a wrecking ball at home on Friday against the Washington Nationals. The Nats have made winning look rather effortless since the All-Star break. Hernandez allowed more than three earned runs in an outing for only the second time all year as the M’s fell by a score of 8-3.
Did Seattle merely face a team riding a huge wave of momentum and hot hitting, or is King Felix beginning to come back down to earth? Whatever the case, as the September schedule is upon MLB, the Mariners need their ace to continue performing prodigiously.
Since Hernandez’s streak of seven-plus IP with no more than two earned runs allowed ended at 16 games on August 16, the M’s ace is 0-2 in three starts. He failed to log six innings of work in his previous two outings. Meanwhile, the Nats continue to be the NL’s best team.
Manager Lloyd McClendon pushed back Hernandez’s would-be start on Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers with the hope that his club could get off on the right foot in the series opener against the surging Nationals while he was absent for his daughter’s wedding. No such luck; his strategy cost them two games instead of potentially only one. Starting Hernandez against the struggling Rangers in the third and deciding game of that series would have given the M’s a favorable advantage to roll out a win.
While the Nationals are hot and have been downing the competition lately (7-3 over their last 10 games), Hernandez should not use that as an excuse. After all, it was just last month that he was shutting down some of the best lineups the AL has to offer. The Mariners now trail the Detroit Tigers for the final AL Wild Card spot. It would be nice to think that after his latest mediocre offering, Hernandez has gotten it out of his system and is ready to get back on track. Given the nature of the Mariners’ stretch run, the club’s success will go as Hernandez goes in September.
If Hernandez can give them 5-6 quality outings with a chance to win all of those ball games next month, October baseball could be back in the Pacific Northwest for the first time in over a decade. Every game counts now. If his September results mimic what he did in the series opener against the Nats on Friday, it’s going to be another grey October in the Emerald City for baseball, and the attentions of Seattle’s sports fans will quickly shift to football and the Seattle Seahawks.