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Five-run second dooms Hernandez

John Sleeper Everett Herald

SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez was due – make that overdue – for a below-average outing.

The Mariners’ 19-year-old rookie sensation was uncharacteristically wild Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles, especially in a five-run second inning in a 6-3 M’s defeat before 30,212 at Safeco Field.

“Nothing happened, really,” Hernandez (3-3) said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t getting much movement on my pitches.”

Hernandez came into the game having walked just 10 in 51 innings of major league work, a span in which he stuck out 50 and built a 1.95 earned-run average.

Yet, he walked three Sunday, all in the second inning. Hernandez’s wildness turned a 3-0 Mariners lead after an inning to a 5-3 deficit after two. Although Hernandez settled down afterward, the damage had been done.

“They scored runs, but I just had to keep working and keep working, so that I could give the team a chance to come back,” Hernandez said. “I felt fine in the bullpen. It was just one bad inning. I had a lot more innings and I kept going.”

Hernandez showed wildness early, but bailed out of a potentially difficult first inning when Miguel Tejada lined into a double play that caught Bernie Castro off second base.

He wasn’t as fortunate in the second.

After giving up a leadoff single to Jay Gibbons, Hernandez issued back-to-back walks to B.J. Surhoff and Alejandro Freire to load the bases. David Newhan hit a sac fly to right, scoring Gibbons. After Hernandez struck out Sal Fasano looking at a wicked, 83-mph breaking ball, he walked Brian Roberts. Bernie Castro lined a double down the left-field line that scored two more runs. Melvin Mora ended the onslaught with a two-run single to right, but he was caught trying to stretch the hit into a double and the M’s got out of the inning.

After that, Hernandez retired 11 straight Orioles. He finished with five strikeouts and allowed seven hits in seven innings. All six runs were earned.

All in all, it was an outing out of Hernandez no one expected.

“Every time he walks out and you look at his face, you realize you expect too much out of him,” M’s manager Mike Hargrove said. “He’s only 19 years old. But even today, he showed an ability to adjust and get back onto his game. The first two innings, he was not on his game at all. To adjust the way he did and to keep Baltimore where they were as long as he did, says a lot about his maturity and his knowledge of himself as a pitcher.”

The Orioles’ outburst ruined a promising start for the Mariners. They scored three runs, taking advantage of wildness by Orioles starter Bruce Chen (12-9). Chen walked two, hit Jamal Strong with a pitch, threw a wild pitch and committed an error in the frame. He also walked in a run. He threw away a ball to first base, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to score. Jeremy Reed walked with the bases loaded, scoring Strong. Later, Chen’s wild pitch scored Richie Sexson.

The Orioles added a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Fasano.

Strong, who started in left field, left the game between the first and second innings after he was hit by a pitch on his left hand. X-rays revealed a fracture of his third metacarpal. His hand will be placed in a cast and he will miss the rest of the season. The injury typically takes four to six weeks to heal.

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