SEATTLE — Mariners ace Felix Hernandez saw his string of 18 consecutive quality starts snapped in his shortest outing in nearly a calendar year, outlasted by Texas lefty Matt Harrison in the Rangers’ 6-3 win over Seattle on Saturday.
Hernandez lasted just 4 1-3 innings, and was tagged for five runs and eight hits by the Rangers. It was the first time since May 9 of last season that Hernandez failed to go at least five innings and ended a string of quality starts dating to Aug. 1.
Harrison worked extra to pick up his first victory of the season. The young left-hander threw 127 pitches, making it through six innings against the light-hitting Mariners. Harrison’s victory made him the first Texas pitcher ever to record 14 wins in his first 31 games.
Elvis Andrus added a two-run double and Josh Hamilton hit a solo homer, his fourth of the season, as the Rangers took the first two games of the weekend series.
Harrison was the story for Texas, though. He escaped early jams with a pair of key double plays in the first and second innings, and wiggled free from major trouble when Seattle scored in the third and fifth innings.
Harrison (1-1) gave up just two earned runs, struck out three and walked three. His career-high 127 pitches included 81 strikes. Frank Francisco walked the first two batters of the ninth, but recovered for his second save in four chances.
Hernandez (2-2) was far from his best, failing to follow up the dominant Seattle debut of Cliff Lee on Friday night in what eventually became a 2-0 loss in 12 innings to the Rangers.
Instead of overpowering, Hernandez was ordinary. He struck out five but walked four, twice loaded the bases and got burned both times. It was his shortest start since lasting just four innings at Minnesota last May.
Hernandez had a nine-game win streak snapped in his last start at Kansas City and his streak of 18 straight quality starts was the third-longest in baseball since 2000. Now he’s riding a two-game losing streak for the first time since last May, and the five earned runs raised his ERA from 2.23 to 3.10.
Hernandez didn’t get many breaks. With the bases loaded and one out in the second, first baseman Casey Kotchman had a ground ball from Julio Borbon take an awkward hop that dashed any hopes of an inning-ending double play. Borbon was out but Ian Kinsler scored.
Andrus then followed with a routine fly ball to left-center field that neither left fielder Milton Bradley or center fielder Franklin Gutierrez appeared to see on an overcast afternoon with the Safeco Field roof open. The ball fell behind Bradley for a two-run double.
Hamilton led off the fifth with an opposite-field homer off Hernandez, just his fourth hit in 26 career at bats against Hernandez. Justin Smoak and Michael Young added RBI singles.
Seattle got seven hits off Harrison, all singles. The Mariners scored a pair in the third on singles by Jose Lopez and Bradley, and Lopez drove in another in the fifth with an RBI ground out. Seattle put two runners on in the eighth, but Chris Ray got pinch hitter Ken Griffey Jr. to pop out to end the inning.