Hernandez continues to battle back from a stint on the disabled list when the Mariners open a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Hernandez (2-2, 2.77 ERA) allowed two runs in five innings of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to San Diego in his second start after spending nearly a month on the disabled list with a strained right elbow.
“The first inning he was fine, after that he struggled with his command and got some balls up,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “He pitched out of some jams, gave up a couple two-out RBI base hits. He didn’t pitch as well as he can but he pitched well enough to win.”
Hernandez lasted just 3 2-3 innings in his first start back from the DL on May 15, allowing three runs without getting a decision. But the 21-year-old right-hander, who began the season with 17 scoreless innings, looked better against the Padres.
“He’d been out for about a month, but he showed signs today that he’s back to his form,” catcher Jamie Burke told the Mariners’ official Web site. “Toward the end he got a little tired, but he dug down, reached for what he had left and did a pretty good job.”
Hernandez allowed one run in eight innings of an 11-3 home win over Kansas City on Aug. 15, 2005 in his only previous outing against the Royals.
“It’s going to come back,” he said. “All I have to do is throw strikes, but it will come back.”
Hernandez will square off against Gil Meche (3-2, 2.44), who spent all of his career with Seattle before signing a five-year, $55 million deal with Kansas City in the offseason. Meche is making his second start against his former team after allowing three unearned runs and 10 hits in an 8-3 win in Seattle on April 28.
“I had butterflies. I’m not going to lie to you,” Meche told Kansas City’s official Web site. “It was pretty strange out there.”
Meche gave up five runs and two homers in five innings of Saturday’s 6-4 loss at Colorado. The loss was the first in five starts on the road for Meche, whose ERA jumped more than half a run in his first loss since April 7.
It also marked the first time in 10 starts that Meche failed to last six innings.
The Mariners (21-22) lost 13-12 in Tampa Bay on Thursday, nearly coming back from an eight-run deficit. Jose Lopez went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs and Ichiro Suzuki hit his third homer and had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 17 games.
Suzuki, who is hitting .434 (33-for-76) during his hitting streak, finished his 1,000th major league game with 1,414 hits, the second-most since 1900 by a player in his first 1,000.
The Royals (19-29), meanwhile, lost 10-3 to Cleveland on Thursday, failing to earn their first series sweep of the season. Still, Kansas City has won eight of its last 11 games.
Esteban German went 4-for-5 with three infield singles for Kansas City, which came back from early deficits to win the first two games of the series.