Errors, command doom Mariners’ Felix Hernandez in his first career opening-day loss

Apr 4, 2016, 5:28 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2016, 3:51 pm
Felix Hernandez gave up just one hit but walked five and lost for the first time on opening day. (A...
Felix Hernandez gave up just one hit but walked five and lost for the first time on opening day. (AP)

Felix Hernandez has always had success on opening day.

He entered Monday’s Mariners opener against Texas with a 6-0 record and 1.49 ERA in eight opening-day starts, and he was just about that good on Monday. The King allowed only one hit in six innings, striking out six Rangers along the way.

Of course, to use some writer’s parlance, I’m burying the lead here – Hernandez was saddled with the loss despite his performance, giving him his first career opening-day loss.

Recap: Mariners lose 3-2 to Texas | Photo gallery | Box score

The unfortunate distinctions don’t end there for the Mariners. The 3-2 loss to the Rangers was the first time in team history they lost a game in which they gave up only one hit, and according to Stats Inc. they’re the first team since 1913 to lose in that fashion on opening day.

It was an inauspicious start to the Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto era, though in a sport where teams play 162 games in a season, it’s probably not something to read too much into.

Something that could be read into, however, was how Felix lost his way in the fifth inning.

After cruising through the first four innings, he walked leadoff hitter Rougned Odor, then after a Kyle Seager error, he issued free passes to two more batters to bring in a run. Next, Prince Fielder came through with the lone Texas hit – which, to be fair, was a blooper that just happened to be perfectly placed in shallow left field as Nori Aoki was playing deep. It brought in another run, though, and the Rangers took the lead for good on the next at-bat when shortstop Ketel Marte couldn’t handle a hot shot from Adrian Beltre.

The sudden loss of command seemed to be compounded by the first error, and though Hernandez bounced back with a 1-2-3 sixth inning, including a pair of strikeouts, it was a rare misstep for him on opening day.

Hernandez is not immune to the occasional rough inning – even when he’s nearly impossible to hit – and that was true Monday in Arlington.

Here’s a couple other observations from the Mariners’ opener:

• All seemed well in the first two innings from an offensive perspective, with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager each delivering impressive home runs off of Texas ace Cole Hamels. But while that gave hope that the Mariners’ “Control the Zone” philosophy had provided an immediate impact, by the end of the game Seattle only had four hits to its credit and went scoreless for the final seven innings. Just a little too reminiscent of last season to begin thinking that the page has been turned at the plate.

• The Hamels-Hernandez matchup turned out to be a dandy. And even though Hamels took the win, it’s hard to say the veteran lefty outdueled Hernandez. He struck out eight, allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. Hamels allowed eight baserunners while Hernandez allowed seven (each pitcher hit a batter), so the difference essentially came down to errors. Seattle had two and Texas had one, which was reflected in the earned runs category – only one of the three runs scored on Hernandez was earned. With the Mariners and Rangers meeting 18 more times this season, there’s a good chance there’s more battles between Hamels and Hernandez coming.

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Errors, command doom Mariners’ Felix Hernandez in his first career opening-day loss