SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez got his 1,500th on Thursday night, but No. 100 will have to wait for another day.
On the night the Seattle Mariners' ace earned career strikeout No. 1,500, he never really found his A-game and fell short again in his second bid for a 100th career victory.
Hernandez gave up 10 hits and three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings as the Mariners dropped their third game in a row with a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
"The last few times we've faced (Hernandez), he's dominated, but (Thursday) we were able to capitalize for whatever reason," said the Rangers' Adrian Beltre, who tipped his helmet to his longtime friend from first base as Hernandez walked off the mound for the final time after Beltre's single in the seventh.
Hernandez (1-2) gave up just one run over 17 innings in his two starts against Texas last season -- both wins -- but the Rangers got to him early and often Thursday night while earning their fourth win in five games.
Texas left fielder David Murphy broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out single in the fifth, then Nelson Cruz followed with a double to score Murphy and give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.
But the star of the night may have been Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a solo home run off Hernandez in the second inning and followed that with a game-saving tag at home plate in the eighth inning.
Fill-in starter Justin Grimm matched Hernandez for four innings before four Texas relievers came on to finish the Mariners off. Grimm, who was called up to start for injured left-hander Matt Harrison, allowed five hits and two runs before giving way to the bullpen in the fifth. Seattle got just three hits and one run the rest of the way.
"They've been great the whole year," Beltre said of the Rangers' relievers. "Even though our starter was a little shaky, we were able to score runs and win the ballgame."
Beltre seemed to be letting Hernandez know about that all game. The friends and former teammates exchanged playful words several times throughout the night, but when Beltre tipped his cap after hitting Hernandez's final pitch for a single, the Seattle starter appeared to shout something back at him.
"It was not frustration," Hernandez said. "We were just talking about something else."
Beltre said their conversations throughout the game were always cordial.
"We always talk smack before the game when we face each other," Beltre said. "We go back and forth. It makes it fun."
Four Rangers drove in runs in taking a 4-2 lead through five innings, and the Mariners had several chances to even the score.
The Mariners (4-7) threatened in both the seventh and eighth innings but scored just one run while stranding four runners and seeing a fifth get thrown out at home plate.
Seattle got three consecutive baserunners with two outs in the seventh, with Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers beaning Michael Morse with a pitch to load the bases. Morse came out of the game with a small non-displaced fracture in his right little finger, and manager Eric Wedge said he would miss 3-7 days.
Scheppers was replaced by Robbie Ross, who struck out Raul Ibanez to end that threat.
One inning later, the Mariners got back-to-back hits from Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero to put runners on second and third to start the inning. Smoak scored on a groundout by Robert Andino to cut the deficit to 4-3, then Seattle tried a squeeze play with pinch runner Endy Chavez taking off from third base. Brendan Ryan's bunt was fielded cleanly by Ross, who quickly threw home. Pierzynski used his left foot block the plate before tagging out Chavez, who earlier in the day had been called up from Triple-A Tacoma.
"We knew it was a possibility," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the attempted squeeze play in a one-run game. "Robbie made a hell of a play. All the work they put in on fielding (at spring training), it worked out for us (Thursday)."
Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who earned his 300th save earlier this week, pitched a perfect ninth for his third save of the season.
Seattle's Jason Bay, who was filling in for Morse, hit a deep ball to the warning track in center field for the final out.
Joe Ortiz earned the win for Texas after pitching scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth. Grimm, who was making his first start since June 25, 2012, did not qualify for the win because he fell short of the five-inning minimum.
Hernandez had his own struggles but said he threw the ball better than he had in his previous outing, a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
"It was not a struggle; I was just missing a little bit," Hernandez said of his 113-pitch performance Thursday night. "I was trying to make the pitches, and I was just missing by a little."
Hernandez became the fifth player 27 years old or younger to record his 1,500th strikeout when he caught Murphy looking to end the top of the first, but the Mariners' ace wasn't in the mood for celebrating the milestone.
"I got the loss," he said. "I can't celebrate that."
The Mariners' Franklin Gutierrez led off the first inning with a home run, his third leadoff homer of the season, but that was one of the few offensive highlights for a Seattle team that has now lost three in a row.
"We're having a tough time right now scoring runs," Gutierrez said. "But it's early in the season. We're going to come around."
NOTES: Grimm was called up from Triple-A before the game, taking Harrison's spot in the rotation. Harrison was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, with an inflamed nerve in his lower back. ... The Mariners traded for right-handed pitcher Aaron Harang on Thursday, giving them a veteran option should the back of the rotation continue to struggle. Harang is expected to throw a bullpen session Friday, after which time Wedge will evaluate his role. ... Outfielder Michael Saunders was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, with Chavez being promoted from Triple-A Tacoma to take his place. The Mariners cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by designating pitcher D.J. Mitchell for assignment. ... Boosted by Hernandez's first home start and an accompanying promotional T-shirt giveaway, the Mariners finally had some support in the stands Thursday night. The announced crowd of 22,917 was bigger than the combined attendance of the previous two nights. Seattle set a Safeco Field record for low attendance Tuesday (10,745) and then again Wednesday (10,493).