No more chances this season to use Felix Hernandez to help them pad their pennant-race lead.
That’s not to say the Rangers relish every chance they can get to face Seattle’s All-Star and franchise cornerstone. They have prodigious respect for the 2010 Cy Young Award winner. They said so after their latest shelling of him Wednesday.
As Texas manager Ron Washington said, “We don’t own him. No one owns anyone.”
Maybe so, but this season the Rangers are at least renting “The King.”
Wednesday leadoff man Leonys Martin, still playing with a heavily taped right ankle that had him out Sunday and Monday, had a career-high four RBIs in the first four innings against Hernandez. That included his three-run home run in the second inning on a centered, split-fingered fastball that didn’t split anything except the heart of the plate.
Elvis Andrus doubled home two more in the fourth. By the time Ian Kinsler singled home Andrus, it was 8-0, Hernandez had given up 11 hits and was gone after a season-low 78 pitches in three innings plus four batters.
Hernandez walked slowly off the field to exit another Rangers' ransacking of him. He took his gum out of his mouth and fired it into the dirt in front of Seattle’s dugout. He chucked his glove into a corner. And he flipped his cap dismissively in the area of the bench. It was tied for his second-shortest outing of his eight-year career.
Hernandez was charged with eight earned runs, the most in his career.
“That was embarrassing. Terrible,” Hernandez (12-8) said.
“I was a little bit up. Everything I threw, they hit.”
Thing is, that is the 2013 Rangers against “King Felix.” Hernandez is now 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against Texas in five starts this season. Last week in Arlington, Texas got him for five runs on five hits and five walks in five innings in a 15-3 romp.
And it’s to a large extent the Rangers' way throughout Hernandez’s career. His 20 losses to Texas are his most against any opponent –- by a large margin. The next most defeats is 13, to the Los Angeles Angels.
What do the Rangers seek to do when they face Hernandez?
“Be aggressive,” Andrus said.
Indeed, his RBI double off Hernandez in the five-run fourth was on the first strike Andrus saw. Same with Soto’s two-run single in the third, Martin’s RBI single in the fourth and Kinsler’s RBI single in that big inning.
“Felix is a great challenge to face," Andrus said. "Every time you are facing one of the best pitchers in the league. We didn’t want him to feel comfortable.
“Yeah, you don’t want to get to two strikes with Felix. That’s when he gets really dangerous.”
He wasn’t anything close to that Wednesday against the Rangers. Again.
“It’s funny, people assume because you are playing a team under .500 that you should handle him,” Kinsler said. “The reality is, we faced two of the best pitchers in the league [Texas beat All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma on Tuesday].
“To sweep a team with those two pitching is huge for us.”
Perez becoming Mr. Dependable: Last September, Martin Perez was a 21-year old thrown into a pennant race largely because the Rangers had no other options at the back of their rotation.
A year later, Martin has become a dependable key to the middle of the rotation for a first-place team.
Perez showed poise and focus in keeping the Mariners silent while his hitters beat up on Hernandez on Wednesday. Spotting his fastball well and using a commanding changeup, the left-hander didn’t allow a hit until one out into the fourth inning, to Kyle Seager on his 48th pitch. By the time Seattle scored a run off him, on Dustin Ackley’s homer in the fifth, the Rangers had 10 runs.
Perez (8-3) lowered his ERA to 3.58 by allowing five hits and two earned runs in six professional innings to beat his fellow Venezuelan Hernandez for the second time in three starts. He walked two, struck out three and set Rangers rookie records for wins in five consecutive starts and five wins in a month. He now leads AL rookies in victories.
“This year, I’m throwing more strikes. And we’ve got guys giving me offensive support,” said Perez, who has received at least 10 runs from his offense in three consecutive games.
He brushed off the team rookie records he just set as if they were more hitters in August; he’s 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA this month.
He’s already looking ahead to his next start, next week at second-place Oakland.
“I just need to refocus,” he said. “Don’t look back. Just look in front of me, and say, ‘I can and I will.’”
So far, he has.
“He’s growing right in front of your eyes,” Washington said, adding he is impressed with “his poise [and] his mound presence.”