On Felix’s struggles and Taijuan’s arrival

FelixPoint2We’re in Houston today and the Mariners should be glad to get out on the road after a horrible homestand in which they went 0-6, losing twice in Felix Hernandez starts.

Felix continues to be an enigma against the Rangers, who knocked him out after three-plus innings yesterday with 11 hits and nine runs (eight earned) in one of the worst starts of his career.

Hernandez has gone 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA in five starts against the Rangers this season, but 12-4 with a 2.19 ERA in 23 starts against everyone else. Clearly Texas takes a good approach against him, waiting out his nasty changeup and making him elevate and throw strikes.

And when they get him up in the zone, they’ve been able to hit him hard.

A year ago, it was the Angels who had his number when he went 0-3 with a 6.25 ERA in five starts against them and 13-6 and 2.56 in 28 starts against the rest of baseball.

But ponder this, as well. Felix was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA against the Rangers last year. And he’s 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA on four starts vs. the Angels this season, even including the one meltdown in Anaheim when he lost a seven-run lead. So, yeah, sometimes this stuff is hard to figure.

The one common demoninator with Texas and Anaheim is that both are AL West rivals and clearly teams that sees Felix four or five times a season can gain some advantage in knowing how to face him.

He’s 12-20 with a 4.18 ERA in 39 career starts against Texas and 8-13 with a 3.95 ERA in 34 career starts against the Angels. Those are the two teams he’s faced the most, by far. But he’s 15-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 28 starts against the A’s, so it’s not just about seeing him a lot. It’s about how those teams attack him.

Seattle is done with Texas for this season and if Hernandez stays on schedule, he won’t face the Angels again this year either. He does line up for six more potential starts, including one against the A’s in the final game of the regular season at Safeco Field if he continues pitching every fifth game.

WalkerTaijuanBIt remains to be seen if Seattle stays on a regular rotation, however. Change is obviously afoot there with top prospect Taijuan Walker’s promotion.

The hard-throwing 21-year-old will make his MLB debut Friday against the Astros and that should be quite an event for a Mariners club that could use a boost here in the final month.

But Walker only figures to get about three starts at the Major League level if the Mariners stick with their plan to keep him around 160 innings this season, since he’s already thrown 142 at Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma.

This is about getting Walker a taste of the Majors in anticipation of him being part of the rotation next year, which makes sense. Beyond Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners rotation needs answers. Walker figures to be a key figure next year, so why not get his feet wet now and let him know what he’s working toward this offseason and next spring?

Pitching one month now won’t change anything in terms of his arbitration clock, presuming he was going to start the season with the big club next year anyway. So this is just bonus time for one of the youngsters we’ve been waiting to see.

Add him in with Mike Zunino’s impending return behind the plate and the early arrival this year of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller and this definitely has been an increased push with the youth movement. Pushing the pace on that seems the smart thing to do in a season that otherwise is just playing out September.

1 Comment

This is just a poor man’s opinion, but I think Felix lets Beltre get into his head and that could affect his concentration on the rest of the lineup. I can’t think of anything else to explain his poor showings against the Rangers…

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