- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Felix Hernandez was at a loss.

The pitcher so dominant he had earned the nickname King Felix had more than two hours to contemplate his night and still couldn’t wrap his head around it.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said, his face lacking any emotion. “To be honest, I don’t really know.”

Luis Valbuena and Jason Castro homered as the Houston Astros chased Hernandez in an eight-run first inning to snap a season-high, seven-game losing streak with a 10-0 victory over Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

Carlos Correa and Chris Carter also went deep for the Astros, but All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve left early with discomfort in his right hamstring.

Hernandez (9-3), who had allowed just seven runs on the road all season, was tagged for five hits and eight runs with two walks. He got only one out, tying the shortest start of his career.

Altuve got the big inning going with a leadoff single before Preston Tucker walked on four pitches. George Springer’s double down the right-field line made it 1-0 before things really started falling apart for Hernandez.

Evan Gattis hit a one-hopper to Hernandez on the next pitch, and the right-hander threw home to try and stop Tucker from scoring. Instead, Hernandez threw it in the dirt and the ball bounced off catcher Mike Zunino’s leg for an error that allowed two runs to score and Gattis to reach second.

Hernandez shook his fist and cursed at himself after the ball rolled away and the runners crossed the plate.

After a short mound visit, Hernandez walked Colby Rasmus before striking out Correa for the first out of the inning.

But then Valbuena snapped an 0-for-19 slump by sending an 88 mph changeup into the bullpen in right-center to extend the lead to 6-0 and leave the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner shaking his head.

“Blink of an eye, it was 6-0,” Hernandez said. “Fifteen pitches.”

Carter singled before Castro launched a homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field to make it 8-0 and end Hernandez’s night just 31 pitches after it began. He looked bewildered as he watched Castro’s drive and mumbled to himself before covering his mouth with his glove as he slowly walked to the dugout.

“They just kept getting hits,” Hernandez said. “The home run from Castro was unreal. It was just one of those days.”

Manager Lloyd McClendon said it was pointless to keep Hernandez out there after things got away from him.

“Look, he’s human,” McClendon said. “He had a tough night. I was not going to stress him anymore. He was at 31 pitches with one out. Just made no sense.”

Brett Oberholtzer (1-1) allowed three hits in eight sharp innings and Joe Thatcher completed the four-hitter. It was Oberholtzer’s fourth start of the season after missing much of the year because of two stints on the disabled list.

Seattle became the first team since the Montreal Expos in April 2004 to score three runs or less 15 times in a 16-game span, according to STATS.

“It certainly isn’t ideal,” Kyle Seager said. “You’d like to score nine runs every night, but … we’ll be all right.”

Correa, a highly touted rookie making his home debut, was the only out Hernandez got before his early exit. But the top pick in the 2012 draft added a solo homer in the second, and Carter pushed the lead to double digits with his soaring shot in the fifth.

The abbreviated start by Hernandez forced the Mariners to use four relievers before going to catcher Jesus Sucre for the eighth. Sucre was effective, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning in his first major league pitching appearance.

McClendon said he used Sucre to keep from further taxing a bullpen that had to pitch 5 2/3 innings on Thursday before Friday’s fiasco.

The other time Hernandez left after getting just one out came on April 18, 2007, when he was pulled because of an injury.

It was the most runs he had allowed since giving up nine - eight earned - on Aug. 28, 2013, against Texas and just two away from his career high of 10. Hernandez was great in the first two months of the season and had an ERA of 1.91 entering June. But he’s struggled in two of his three starts this month to push it to 3.38.

He said he felt “way better” entering Friday’s game than he had in his last two starts but that his pitches were just “a little bit up.”

Houston’s eight runs were the most the team has scored in an inning since also scoring eight on Aug. 12, 2008.


Sucre was a bit surprised when McClendon told him in the seventh inning that he would be pitching in the eighth. He said he never pitched at any level.

“It’s kind of fun,” he said. “I did it because the team needed it today, but I really don’t want to be out there.”

But he did take a moment to peek back at the board to see that he’d thrown an 87 mph fastball.

“I thought that was good for me,” he said with a sheepish grin.


Mariners: All-Star RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (tightness in upper back) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Monday and if that goes well he could go on a rehabilitation assignment next weekend.

Astros: RHP Samuel Deduno (right hip) is expected to throw live batting practice in the next few days and then go on a rehab assignment.


Seattle rookie LHP Mike Montgomery opposes Collin McHugh when the series continues Saturday. Montgomery has a 2.08 ERA but is looking for his first win in his third career start.

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