The 20-year-old phenom has yet to pitch longer than five innings in any of his first three starts. Hernandez (0-2, 6.14) gave up four runs and six hits— including two homers—over five innings and was charged with the loss in a 7-4 loss to Texas on Tuesday.
Hernandez seemed to go away from using his fastball, but took solace in his nine strikeouts and one walk. He had walked four batters in each of his first two outings.
“My fastball’s fine,” Hernandez said. “My curveball has more than anything always been my strikeout pitch.”
Mariners (7-12) manager Mike Hargrove took some positive signs from Hernandez’s final three innings. Hernandez allowed two-run homers in each of the first two frames before going through the rest of his night unscathed.
“I think he got a little frustrated and got out of his rhythm, but he settled back in and the last couple innings he threw well,” Hargrove said. “Hopefully this will get him going.”
Hernandez will be facing the team he made his major-league debut against on Aug. 4, 2005. he gave up two runs and three hits over five innings in a 3-1 loss.
The Tigers (11-7) also send a hard-throwing youngster to the mound in Justin Verlander (1-2, 5.40), who has also had the problem of yielding home runs in his last two starts. Verlander is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA in those outings— allowing four homers—since earning his first major-league win on April 8 by beating Texas.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave up two homers to Oakland’s Nick Swisher in a 4-3 loss on Tuesday. Verlander threw 121 pitches and allowed four runs and five hits over seven innings while striking out seven.
“I really wanted to win this one tonight,” Verlander said. “A couple pitches, that’s what hurt me. A couple mistakes.”
This will be Verlander’s first career appearance against Seattle.
Verlander is also seeking to become the third Tigers starter in the series not to allow a run. After Mike Maroth worked six scoreless innings in Friday’s 2-1 victory, Nate Robertson allowed two hits over seven innings in a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
The Tigers’ last three-game sweep at Seattle was from Aug. 14-16, 2000.
Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre went 0-for-3 as his average dropped from .175 to .167. Beltre hit just .236 through the first two months last season and struggled throughout.
“His swing is shorter, more compact,” Hargrove said. “He’s having more good at-bats. I hesitate to say he’s getting close. I hate that phrase. But certainly he’s getting better.”