King Felix gives up early homers as Mariners fall to Rangers

SEATTLE (AP) -- Early Tuesday, the Venezuela sports daily Meridiano hailed seven countrymen pitching on the same day as "the seven wonders of the world." Late in the day, Seattle was wondering about one of those seven.

Felix Hernandez allowed early two-run home runs to Phil Nevin and Brad Wilkerson in the Mariners' 7-4 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.

Hernandez (0-2), the hard-throwing 20-year-old right-hander, struck out nine and walked one. But he allowed four runs and six hits, leaving him with a 6.14 ERA. He threw 100 pitches -- his third consecutive start with triple figures in pitches. He hasn't lasted past five innings in any of them.

"I'm fine," Hernandez said through an interpreter when asked if he was concerned. "I don't feel any kind of pressure. I was just a little bit off with my command.

He has given up four homers in 10 2/3 innings -- he surrendered five in 84 1/3 innings during his impressive two-month debut last season.

The crowd of 17,927 -- the smallest at Safeco Field, which opened in July 1999 -- seemed more surprised than disappointed. Hernandez seemed frustrated. He often shook his head. He fidgeted and smirked as catcher Kenji Johjima and then pitching coach Rafael Chaves visited him on the mound.

"I was just frustrated with myself," Hernandez said. "I was trying to keep my team in the game."

Texas starter John Koronka (2-1) was also off with his command. But he got his second AL win by holding the Mariners to one run in five innings. Koronka, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on March 31, allowed five hits and four walks but held Seattle batters to 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Seattle loaded the bases in the first before Carl Everett grounded out. Willie Bloomquist hit an RBI single in the fourth, and the Mariners had runners on second and third with one out before Yuniesky Betancourt popped out and Ichiro Suzuki flied out to keep the Texas lead 4-1.

Suzuki was 0-for-4. He has two hits in his last 24 at-bats and is batting .177.

Texas manager Buck Showalter praised Koronka and catcher Rod Barajas for "not giving in" as he continually fell behind in counts.

"It was not like all of a sudden I was going to throw off-speed pitches behind in the count," Koronka said. "I've got to stay with my fastball."

Hernandez largely abandoned his after Nevin homered in the first on a low, 94 mph one and then Wilkerson followed in the second on a higher, 97 mph fastball.

Then Hernandez struck out Rod Barajas, Laynce Nix and Gary Matthews Jr. -- on a fastball, curve and slider. His two strikeouts in a perfect fourth inning were both on sliders. And his ninth strikeout, in the fifth, came when Teixeira chased a low curveball.

"He's going to be darn good," Nevin said. "You've got to remember he's only 20 years old. You don't see arms like his come along very often."

Hernandez brushed off the thought he lost faith in his fastball, about which Nevin marveled.

"My fastball's fine," Hernandez said. "My curveball has more than anything always been my strikeout pitch."

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove found positives in his team's third straight loss and Hernandez's third consecutive substandard start.

"I think he got a little frustrated and got out of his rhythm, but he settled back in and the last couple innings he threw well," Hargrove said. "Hopefully this will get him going."

Jake Woods walked his first three batters in relief of Hernandez in the sixth. Laynce Nix then hit a two-run single -- his third hit in 31 at-bats -- and Gary Matthews Jr. hit a sacrifice fly for a 7-1 lead.

Seattle scored three times off Rick Bauer in the sixth on Bloomquist's sacrifice fly, Betancourt's run-scoring triple and Suzuki's RBI groundout.

With two on and two outs in the seventh, Antonio Alfonseca struck out Adrian Beltre. The reliever slammed his fist into his thigh to celebrate. The crowd booed Beltre, who is batting .154, not Alfonseca.

Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.

Game notes
Ten of Nevin's 14 RBI this season have come with two outs. ... Woods walked five in 1 2/3 innings. He has walked 10 in 8 2/3 innings this season. ... Hernandez's nine strikeouts tied for second-most of his 15-start career. He had 11 last Aug. 15 against Kansas City. ... Everett had two singles, a double and scored twice after squandering his chance in the first.