When Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010, he did it with a monster streak – 10 games with an 0.96 ERA.
He’s had a monster streak this year, too, but it won’t necessarily morph into a second straight recognition as the American League's best pitcher.
That’s because the 2010 streak came in his final 10 starts and resulted in Hernandez winning the ERA title and almost winning the strikeout crown.
The streak this year started earlier, on June 17, and lasted longer, 14 games. During the two-plus months, he was 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA and moved into the ERA lead at 2.43.
But Thursday’s 8-3 loss in Toronto was confirmation that the streak is over. Hernandez matched his career worst with seven earned runs allowed. In three September starts is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA.
He was roughed up for 10 hits, including decisive homers by Adam Lind, who hit a two-run blast in the first, and Edwin Encarnacion, who capped a five-run fourth with his 40th homer, a three-run bomb that put the Blue Jays out of reach, 7-2.
“He was just missing some spots with his fastball,” Wedge said. “It looked like his stuff was pretty good, but he just didn’t have the same location we’ve seen.”
In the last three starts he’s been knocked around for 30 hits. His control hasn’t been bad -- one walk Thursday and four walks total -- but his pitches haven’t been at all sharp.
As a result, he’s seen in ERA jump by almost a full one-half point from 2.43 to 2.92, still in the top 10 in the league but no longer dominant, and he’s seen his chances of a second Cy diminish accordingly.
It was clear from the first inning that Hernandez wasn’t sharp. He gave up a one-out double, then a two-out homer to Lind, a shot into the right field seats.
The Mariners got those two runs back – with a little help. Carlos Peguero smacked a two-out line drive that startled left fielder Rajai Davis, who broke in on the ball then broke back too late. Peguero got credit for a two-out double, the only hit with men in scoring position for the Mariners.
The Jays had runners in scoring position in the second and third without scoring, but that changed in the fourth. A two-out single up the middle by Brett Lawrie past the diving Dustin Ackley made it 4-2, and even more than the homers, decided the game. Hernandez got ahead of Lawrie with two strikes, but then hit a hard grounder Ackley just missed.
“Lawrie got behind 0-2, fought off a couple, then Ack almost got there,” Wedge said. “If (Hernandez) gets out of the inning, it’s a totally different game for us.”
Two batters after Lawrie, Encarnacion, who reached 40 homers for the first time in his career, hit a ball that effectively ended Hernandez’s night. He finished the inning, but rookie reliever Carter Capps took over to start the fifth and gave up with final Blue Jays’ run.
Dustin Ackley’s solo homer, his 11th, completed the scoring in the seventh, and a couple of hours later the Mariners were headed to Texas for a three-game series against the American League West leaders.
Hisashi Iwakuma gets the Friday start for Seattle. The game could have more than average interest, because he will be matched up with another Japanese ex-pat, Yu Darvish. They met six times in their time in Japan, Darvish earning three wins and Iwakuma two.
Darvish has had more trouble with Seattle than any other big league teams, a 9.00 ERA, a 1-2 record in three starts. He’s allowed 20 hits in 16 innings, but the big problem has been his control, 14 walks in those 16 innings.
Iwakuma did not fare well in his one start against the Rangers, giving up four runs in five innings on July 15. He also pitched three innings of relief in a blowout Seattle win on May 30, giving up three runs.