While the Seattle Mariners just got knocked around by one of the weaker teams in baseball, they should have a big edge on the mound Thursday night.
After beating lowly Houston 3-0 on Monday, Seattle (4-6) gave up 24 runs and 37 hits in losing the last two games of the series. Before those two, the Astros totaled nine runs and a .188 average during a six-game losing streak.
The Mariners saw their ERA rise to 5.40 with Wednesday's 8-3 defeat, dropping to 2-6 over their last eight contests.
Seattle now turns to Hernandez (1-1, 2.57 ERA) in hopes of bouncing back. However, after allowing three hits and striking out eight in 7 2-3 innings of a 2-0 win at Oakland on April 1, Hernandez struggled in Saturday's 4-3 defeat to the Chicago White Sox.
The right-hander was tagged for four runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings while managing just three strikeouts - he tied for fifth in the majors last year with 223.
"I don't think he had his best stuff," manager Eric Wedge told MLB's official website. "He always competes and pitches, but he didn't quite have the same fastball he typically has, and I think that probably leaked into his secondary stuff."
Besides a lack of velocity, Hernandez had a hard time hitting his spots.
"I was opening up too much. I was going too quick," he said. "The stuff was there today, but it was the command. That was the problem. When I don't have my command, it's tough to pitch."
Hernandez had gone 10-16 with a 4.03 ERA over 32 starts against the Rangers (6-3) before giving them fits in two meetings last year. The former AL Cy Young Award winner threw eight innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 win May 21, then struck out 12 in a three-hitter July 14.
Among Texas hitters to have problems with Hernandez in recent years are Nelson Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski, who are a combined 7 for 42 against him since the start of 2010.
Lance Berkman hasn't faced Hernandez since 2007 but enters this matchup batting .480 and got a day off Wednesday.
Without him, Texas lost 2-0 to Tampa Bay after posting wins in the first two games of the series. The Rangers were limited to four singles and a double Wednesday, and they went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Grimm could use a much better performance from the offense Thursday. The 24-year-old right-hander is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to start in place of the injured Matt Harrison , who was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a sore back.
"I just expect him to come and keep us in the ballgame," manager Ron Washington said of Grimm. "He's a strike-thrower, and he understands how to use those strikes. It doesn't have to be a no-hitter, a perfect game, none of that. Just keep us around."
Grimm went 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA last year in five games - two starts.
He won't have to face Michael Saunders , who was removed from Wednesday's loss with a sprained shoulder after crashing into the wall in the first inning. Saunders had hit safely in each of the previous seven games, going 8 for 24 with five RBIs.
"He's going to have to miss some time. It's just a matter of how much time," Wedge said. "It could be a DL situation."
Michael Morse figures to be back in the lineup following a day off. The slugging left fielder leads the AL with six home runs.
|April 07, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|April 06, 2013||Matt Harrison||15-Day DL||Inflamed nerve in lower back|
|March 24, 2013||Neftali Feliz||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Joakim Soria||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Martin Perez||15-Day DL||Cracked ulna bone, left forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Colby Lewis||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 10, 2013||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
|March 25, 2013||Josh Kinney||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, left shoulder|
|March 19, 2013||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Stiffness in neck|
SEATTLE (AP) -- All A.J. Pierzynski could do was wait.
First to see if his second-inning fly ball would clear the top of the right-field fence for a homer. Then for a crucial flip from pitcher Robbie Ross in the eighth inning as Seattle tried to squeeze across the tying run.
Both times Pierzynski and the Texas Rangers came out ahead.
Pierzynski homered, David Murphy snapped a 2-all tie with an RBI single in the fifth, and the Rangers toppled Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in a 4-3 win over the Mariners on Thursday night.
Pierzynski hit his second homer of the season with one-out in the second. The Rangers added an unearned run later in the inning and scored twice in the fifth to deny Hernandez (1-2) a shot at his 100th career victory.
"We scored some runs off of Felix which doesn't happen very often," Pierzynski said. "He's had the career he's had and the numbers he's put up in his career because he's one of the best. He's never a fun at-bat."
Joe Ortiz pitched two innings in relief of Texas starter Justin Grimm to get his first victory. Ortiz (1-0) allowed no hits and striking out two in his fourth relief appearance of the season. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his third save.
Thursday night was Hernandez's first home start since he signed a $175 million extension in the offseason that will keep him in Seattle through the 2019 season. The occasion was celebrated with all 22,000-plus fans in attendance receiving giant yellow K-cards and a yellow T-shirt with "King Felix" printed on the front.
There were plenty of cheers early when Hernandez recorded a pair of first inning strikeouts to reach the 1,500-mark in his career. Hernandez got Murphy looking to end the first inning for No. 1,500. He walked off the mound to be greeted by a handshake from Adrian Beltre - one of Hernandez's closest friends in the game - and catcher Jesus Montero waiting with the ball to commemorate the milestone number.
Hernandez allowed the homer to Pierzynski in the second then saw his defense let him down. Raul Ibanez misplayed Mitch Moreland 's line drive to left field for an error. Leonys Martin followed with a single and with two outs, Elvis Andrus had an RBI single to score Moreland and give the Rangers the lead.
After Seattle pulled even, the Rangers broke the deadlock in the fifth. Ian Kinsler led off with a single and scored on Murphy's two-out hit. Nelson Cruz followed with a double to left field to score Lance Berkman for a 4-2 lead.
Hernandez allowed 10 hits and three earned runs, leaving after giving up a single to Beltre with two outs in the seventh.
"I thought he was sharper today than his last outing," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He had better stuff. A couple of pitches he left up that they got to."
Seattle threatened twice late in the game, none bigger than the eighth inning. Justin Smoak singled and Jesus Montero doubled to open the eighth. Robert Andino followed with a slow chopper to score Smoak and cut the Rangers' lead to 4-3 with pinch-runner Endy Chavez advancing to third.
Seattle then tried to squeeze across the tying run, but Brendan Ryan 's bunt went directly back at Ross, who moved quickly off the mound and flipped the ball Pierzynski in time to get Chavez breaking from third.
"Lucky for us he bunted it hard enough to where Robbie could get it to me in time," Pierzynski said. "I was just begging for him to get it to me as fast as he could because it's an awkward play for a catcher."
An inning earlier, Ross entered and struck out Raul Ibanez with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
It was Seattle's third straight loss and the only bit of news that was good for Seattle surrounded Michael Morse , who left the game in the seventh inning after getting hit on the right hand as he checked his swing. Morse was diagnosed with a small fracture in his right little finger. He's expected to miss 3 to 7 days.
"I'm going to try and rehab this as best I can real quick," Morse said. "Might have to play through some pain."
Notes: Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman threw out the first pitch. He was joined by teammates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor with seats in the first row near the Rangers dugout. ... Seattle gave 2B Dustin Ackley the night off. Ackley is hitting just .100. ... Japanese pitchers Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma will meet for the third time in their major league careers on Friday night. The pitchers faced off six times while playing in Nippon Professional Baseball.