Since returning from the disabled list, Felix Hernandez has lacked the level of endurance he demonstrated at the season’s start. The Seattle Mariners are also exercising caution with their budding ace.
Hernandez remains under the watchful eye of manager Mike Hargrove when he starts the finale of Seattle’s three-game road series against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
The Mariners (25-23) trail the AL West-leading Angels (32-21) by 4 1/2 games after splitting the first two games of this series. Seattle’s second four-game winning streak of the season was snapped with a 4-1 defeat Tuesday night.
Hernandez (3-2, 2.87 ERA) begrudgingly left after 5 1-3 innings in his last start, a 10-2 win on Friday at Kansas City, after experiencing tightness in his lower back. The 21-year-old right-hander hoped to keep pitching despite alerting Hargrove that he was ailing after allowing a two-run triple, one of seven hits he surrendered while fanning five.
“To be safe rather than sorry, we took him out,” Hargrove said. “He wasn’t real happy about that.”
Hernandez’s outing was his longest of three starts since he was on the disabled list from April 23-May 15 because of a strained right forearm flexor muscle.
He has totaled only 14 innings in that span, including a 3 2-3-inning start without a decision on May 15 against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Hernandez is 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA in five career starts against the Angels.
Los Angeles right-hander Jered Weaver (4-3, 3.68) has averaged less than six innings in his eight starts after opening the season on the DL with recurring biceps tendinitis. Weaver threw only five innings Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits, but earned the win in a 10-6 victory over the Yankees in New York.
“We played good defense behind him to get out of the fifth,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Weaver has compiled a 2.89 ERA to win his last three starts, and is looking to win four outings in a row for the first time since winning the first seven appearances of his career last season.
The 24-year-old right-hander also hopes to stop Ichiro Suzuki’s 22-game hitting streak, during which the Seattle center fielder is batting .412 (40-for-97). The hit streak is one shy of Suzuki’s career best - set in his 2001 rookie season - and two away from tying Joey Cora’s franchise record set in 1997.
In the field, though, Suzuki - a six-time Gold Glove winner - lost Robb Quinlan’s flyball Tuesday, leading to two fourth-inning runs in the Angels’ victory.
“The ball became the same color as the sky, so I wasn’t able to see it,” Suzuki said through a translator.
The Angels improved to 6-2 in the season series with Seattle, and have taken eight of the last nine meetings between the teams in Anaheim.
Los Angeles shortstop Orlando Cabrera went 3-for-4, and is batting .408 (31-for-76) in his last 19 games.
Cabrera has enjoyed great success against Hernandez, hitting .529 (9-for-17), while Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. is batting .429 (9-for-21) versus the Seattle right-hander.