“This is the big leagues. If you want to play here and you want to compete here, those are the guys that are here,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “They aren’t going to say, ‘we’re not going to throw those guys against you.’”
Hernandez struck out nine over eight strong innings for his third straight victory, and the Astros’ offensive slide continued in a 6-1 loss to the Mariners. Houston has scored three runs in its past three games and provided little help to Rudy Owens, who pitched adequately in his major league debut.
“We just couldn’t muster anything offensively against Felix and that was pretty much the difference in the ball game,” Porter said.
Owens was called up last minute from Triple-A Oklahoma City to get the starter after Brad Peacock was skipped due to soreness in his forearm. Despite the late notice, Owens‘ family was able to make the trip up from Phoenix to see him make his debut.
“I knew it was going to come. I put in all the hard work. I guess I needed to get a lucky break,” Owens said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a frustrating road to say the least but I’m happy the way things worked out.”
The game got away from Owens (0-1) in just a couple of pitches. After giving up a double to Mike Zunino, Owens watched Willie Bloomquist hit the first pitch out for a two-run homer and a 5-1 Seattle lead. He got James Jones, but was lifted after giving up a two-out walk to Stefan Romero.
Owens allowed nine hits and five runs in his debut. His reward? A trip back to Oklahoma City. Owens was optioned back to Triple-A after the game and Brett Oberholtzer was recalled to make the start on Saturday.
“I will definitely work on my curveball. I was pitching without that today and it’s hard to miss bats,” Owens said. “My curveball wasn’t there for me. I’ve got to get back on the hill and work on it.”
The one batter Hernandez could not solve was Jose Altuve, who improved to 8-for-16 all-time against Seattle’s ace. Altuve had an RBI single in the third, doubled in the fifth and lined a single off Hernandez’s left calf in the eighth. Hernandez stayed in and started an inning-ending double play from Dexter Fowler to finish off the eighth.
It was the second straight start Hernandez pitched eight innings.
“Felix was pretty darn good tonight in a lot of different ways,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Certainly with his pitch count he was very efficient and he fielded the ball with his glove and his leg.”
Bloomquist drove in three runs, but the highlight was his first long ball since Aug. 10, 2011, when he was playing for Arizona, a span of 626 at-bats. Bloomquist’s homer came on the first pitch after Zunino had doubled off the top of the wall, missing a homer by inches.