KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Felix Hernandez made an encouraging return to the mound for the Mariners but couldn’t overcome the best outing of Luke Hochevar’s young career.
Hochevar scattered five hits over seven innings and David DeJesus doubled in two runs, helping the Kansas City Royals defeat Seattle 3-1 on Friday night.
Hernandez, making his first start since spraining his left ankle on June 23 and going on the disabled list, retired the first 10 batters he faced and struck out six of the first 13. But the Royals got to him with three two-out runs in the fifth inning.
The Mariners have lost five of their past six and have the worst record (36-57) in the American League.
“Wins are hard to come by, that’s for sure,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. “Felix did an outstanding job and didn’t look tired, but toward the end a couple of breaking balls didn’t have the same bite. We didn’t rally at all.”
Hernandez said his ankle is fine.
“I was going crazy on the DL,” he said. “I feel pumped. My mechanics were there. I could have thrown 40 more pitches.”
Hochevar limited the Mariners to four singles before Adrian Beltre opened the seventh with a double. Beltre went to third on Jeremy Reed’s groundout and scored on Miguel Cario’s groundout to shortstop Mike Aviles for the only Seattle run.
“You could say the light came on with my approach and my pitch-ability tonight,” Hochevar said.
Hochevar (6-7) struck out four and walking none – quite an improvement over his recent outings. The first overall pick in the 2006 draft, Hochevar had allowed 15 hits and 13 earned runs in 10 innings in losing his previous two starts.
“After a couple of rough outings, the way you get your confidence back, the way you get back on the saddle is by trusting your talent,” Hochevar said. “I trusted my stuff. I was aggressive in the strike zone. I think my main adjustment was pitching to both sides of the plate and moving the ball around, not staying in one location, like I did my previous start.
“The thing I’m more pleased with is the adjustment I made and what I learned from the adjustment I made. It proves to be priceless in my process of getting better every day.”
Ramon Ramirez worked a scoreless eighth inning, and Joakim Soria pitched a flawless ninth to log his 25th save in 27 opportunities. Soria tied a Royals’ record for saves before the All-Star break. Jeff Montgomery saved 25 games before the 1993 All-Star game.
“He’s been outstanding,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “You couldn’t ask for any more from a closer.”
The Royals finally got to Hernandez (6-6) with three two-out runs in the fifth.
Ross Gload singled, extending his hitting streak to nine games, and John Buck walked. Joey Gathright’s single to center scored Gload, and DeJesus followed with his two-run double to right.
“First, I thought Ichiro (Suzuki) was going to run it down, but once he turned his back fully to me, I knew it was over his head,” DeJesus said. “I was able just to get enough of it and get it over his head. Felix was pretty much having his way with us until that fifth inning. He hasn’t pitched in a while. He might have been out of synch. Coming off the DL, he wasn’t as sharp as if he was going every five days.”
Hernandez allowed three runs on four hits, striking out eight and walking one, while throwing 93 pitches.
He was lifted for Roy Corcoran in the sixth.
“DeJesus is a good hitter,” Hernandez said. “He hit pretty good pitches and fouled them off, then he got that double. I was trying to throw more strikes and he was fouling them off. I was trying to find the way to mix my pitches. I threw a curveball, changeup, fastball, slider. He was fouling them off.”
Ichiro went 0 for 4, ending his 26-game hitting streak against Kansas City. Ichiro had hit in every previous game he had played against the Royals.
Royals left fielder Jose Guillen was scratched from the lineup with a stiff neck. … Second baseman Jose Lopez and Cairo each stole second base for the Mariners. They lead the American League in stolen-base percentage at 79.3 – they’ve been caught 17 times while stealing 65 bases.
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