DETROIT – It was bound to happen at some point, but this isn’t how the Mariners wanted either streak to come to an end.
Felix Hernandez had his major league record streak of starts with seven innings pitched and two runs or fewer allowed come to an end at 16. Seattle’s five-game winning streak also was snapped in the process.
Hernandez had his shortest outing since May 2, pitching just five innings and giving up two runs on seven hits, while his teammates mustered little against Tigers’ starter David Price in a 4-2 loss Saturday at Comerica Park.
It was just the second time this season Hernandez failed to pitch six innings or more.
In the much-anticipated showdown between the two former Cy Young winners that drew a crowd of 43,833 – second-largest of the season – Price (12-8) had the better showing, pitching eight innings, giving up just one run on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Hernandez (13-4) wasn’t sharp early and had some of his focus misdirected by his anger with plate umpire Tony Randazzo.
Hernandez’s frustration started in the first inning. Miguel Cabrera asked for time out and it was given as Hernandez was in mid-windup on a 1-2 pitch. Hernandez held himself up and skipped off the mound, but he was clearly miffed that Cabrera was granted his wish.
“A little bit,” Hernandez said.
It also irked manager Lloyd McClendon, who let Randazzo know his displeasure.
“Yeah, I wasn’t happy,” he said.
It was during that exchange that Randazzo motioned to McClendon that he had had enough.
Hernandez then gave up back-to-back singles to Cabrera and Victor Martinez before getting out of the inning.
The tension with Randazzo grew in the second inning when J.D. Martinez stole second base on a pitch that looked like a strike but was called a ball. Hernandez later threw a slider near the outside corner that was also called a ball, which had the Mariners dugout barking comments toward Randazzo. Moments later, Randazzo ejected McClendon, who was sitting in the dugout.
McClendon charged from the dugout to have words with Randazzo about his ejection.
“He thought it was me that was saying something and it wasn’t me,” McClendon said. “That probably upset me more than anything. And then when I went out there to ask him why I was thrown out, he said, ‘Well, I’ve seen your act before.’ ”
McClendon’s past tirades with the Pirates are the stuff of YouTube legend. But this was just his fourth ejection of the season.
“I don’t think that’s called for,” he said. “That’s not fair. If you think I said something about a ball or strike, then throw me out of the game. I get that. But talk about past history, that’s not fair.”
Martinez scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Tigers’ a 1-0 lead.
Through the frustration, Hernandez never could find a rhythm. He threw 28 pitches in the second inning and was at 49 pitches after the first two innings.
“In my opinion, Felix is one of the best pitchers on the planet and he’s a strike-thrower and he doesn’t walk anybody and he’s at 47 pitches in the second inning,” McClendon said. “That’s tough.”
Hernandez has prided himself in keeping his emotions and temper in check as he’s matured. But he yelled at Randazzo after one pitch that was called a ball, then waved his glove at Randazzo after striking out Ian Kinlser to end the second inning.
His teammates tied the score in the fourth inning. Austin Jackson got the Mariners’ first hit of the game off Price, doubling to right-center. He moved to third on Dustin Ackley’s deep fly ball to center field and scored on Robinson Cano’s ground ball to first base.
Hernandez took a hard ground ball off the hip in the fourth inning off the bat of Kinsler. And with 92 pitches after five innings, the Mariners decided it was enough.
Hernandez said the hip was sore but it won’t be an issue.
“I’ll be fine,” he said.
As for the record-setting streak coming to an end, Hernandez shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s over,” he said. “I just have to start a new one.”