By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Those two extra days of rest that Mariners ace Felix Hernandez got by not pitching Wednesday against Texas turned into a bit of history Friday night against Washington at Safeco Field.
Not the good kind.
Hernandez gave up four homers for the first time in his career in an 8-3 loss to the Nationals that dropped the Mariners one game behind Detroit in the chase for the American League’s final wild-card spot.
A bad night for the King’s Court.
“It was a tough day,” Hernandez said. “I couldn’t get out of the middle of the plate in the first four innings. It was up, and I got crushed.”
Hernandez had allowed three homers on five occasions over 296 previous starts in his 10-year career. He had yielded just nine homers this season in 27 previous starts.
“We knew (we) had to be (aggressive) against Felix,” Washington manager Matt Williams said, “and he got some balls up in the zone.
“It’s a big ballpark, and you really don’t expect that (many homers) in a park like this, but we put some good swings on (Hernandez) tonight.”
Anthony Rendon had the first one. He went deep to center with one out in the first inning.
After the Mariners countered that with two runs in their first against Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman, Hernandez yielded a two-run shot in the third inning to Jayson Werth.
The Nationals pushed their lead to 5-2 when Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos hit solo shots in the fourth inning. And note this: None of the four were cheapies, even by Safeco’s considerable standards.
“They had a good approach,” Hernandez said, “but if you stay out of the middle, (you’ll be OK). If you can’t stay out of the middle, if you don’t have good command of your fastball, you’re going to get hit.”
Hernandez (13-5) was pitching with a week of rest after two subpar starts following his remarkable run of 16 straight starts in which he pitched at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs.
The price of that extra rest was summoning Erasmo Ramirez from Triple-A Tacoma for a spot start, which didn’t go well, either. He gave up 10 runs in three-plus innings Wednesday in a 12-4 loss to Texas.
“I think Lloyd (McClendon) did it for a long-term move,” said bench coach Trent Jewett, who ran the club while McClendon attends his daughter’s wedding in Indiana.
“Not just for Felix. For everybody. It was looking at things long term, and the workload and bouncing back and so forth. We’ll see the benefits from it in days to come.”
Hernandez gave up five runs and 10 hits in seven innings but insisted (a) that the extra rest didn’t affect his performance and (b) that he is healthy.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m good. I was in the middle of the plate. You’re going to get hit if you stay in the middle.”
Even after Hernandez left, the Nats weren’t done.
Reliever Joe Beimel surrendered two more Washington homers, to Bryce Harper and Ramos, with two out in the eighth inning. Fernando Rodney, in a get-work outing, allowed a run in the ninth.
Six homers. The Mariners had not allowed more than three this season in any of their previous 132 games.
“Tough game; bad game,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “Nothing you can do. It’s not that we made a lot of errors or anything like that. They beat us. They scored a lot of runs. Nothing you can do.”
The Mariners (72-61) are now 1-3 on their six-game homestand after a three-game sweep last weekend at Boston.
Washington (76-57) maintained a six-game lead atop the National League East Division.
“It’s a good lineup,” said Jewett, who spent the previous three seasons on the Nationals’ staff. “And it’s one that’s been tough on the entire league. It was tough on us tonight. Hopefully, it’s not as tough on us (Saturday).
Zimmerman (10-5) appeared vulnerable at times but worked five shutout innings after that two-run first before handing a three-run lead to Drew Storen in the seventh.
Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano closed out Zimmerman’s victory. Soriano allowed a run in the ninth.
“We were what, 17-8 or whatever it is (before Friday),” Cano said, “but we’re humans, too. We’re going to go through losses and wins. It’s just a situation that you don’t want to let it get too far.”