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Mariners’ Félix Hernández is pitching well, and there’s a sign it can continue

Félix Hernández pitched struck out eight in six innings for the Mariners on Tuesday night. (AP)

Félix Hernández made his sixth start of the season for the Mariners on Tuesday night. He didn’t get the win and fell just outside of the parameters of a quality start, but he pitched well.

That’s something that is starting to become a theme in 2019 – Félix Hernández pitching well.

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After a no-decision in Seattle’s 6-5 loss to the Cubs in which Hernández allowed four runs in six innings and struck out eight, he has a respectable 4.31 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Perhaps most important, though, is that he has issued just four walks in 31 1/3 innings pitched, good enough for a very strong rate of just 1.15 walks per nine innings.

That is well below his career average of 2.6 walks per nine innings, and it’s something ESPN’s Jeff Passan told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Tuesday morning is the most promising part of Hernández’s performance this season.

“There are two things that Félix Hernández is doing much better than anticipated. Number one is he’s not walking guys, and that has been an enormous part of (his success). He’s throwing strikes,” Passan said. “And number two, he’s keeping the ball in the ballpark, which is a really difficult thing to do in 2019.”

Mariners fans know exactly how much the ball is flying this year. Not only have the M’s been hitting homers at a record pace, but the entire league is, as the MLB is in line to break its all-time record for most home runs in a season. So knowing that, if Hernández can keep opponents from taking him deep on a regular basis, he’ll be in good shape.

“If you’re a pitcher who manages somehow – whether it is staying low in the strike zone, whether it is working effectively up (in the strike zone) – to keep the ball in the ballpark, you’re actually going to be pretty decent in 2019,” Passan said.

Whether Hernández can continue to do that, however, is something Passan is skeptical about. And to that point, a pair of Cubs, Daniel Descalso and Anthony Rizzo, hit home runs off of Hernández on Tuesday. That was the second time this season Hernández gave up two homers in a game, but his total for the season sits at just five.

“I think when it’s all said and done, that home run total is going to jump pretty significantly and is going to put a pretty big dent in his ERA,” Passan said.

As for Hernández’s impressive walk rate?

“The walk stuff I think can be consistent. I think Félix Hernández can continue that,” Passan said.

You can listen to Passan’s full segment with Brock and Salk, which covers several Mariners topics, either in the player embedded in this post or in the podcast at this link.

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Brock and Salk podcast