KANSAS CITY -- The Mariners had a big scare on Friday night, but it had nothing to do with the game, a 10-2 rout of the Royals. The Mariners were in control from the start, owning a 10-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth, but that is when they had an anxiety attack. Manager Mike Hargrove sent pitching coach Rafael Chaves out to visit Mariners starter Felix Hernandez after he gave up an RBI double to Alex Gordon for the second run of the inning.
"It looked like he was overthrowing and there was no reason to," Hargrove said. "I sent him out there to settle him down and get him back in rhythm and then he motioned me out there and my heart stopped along with everybody else's." Hernandez went on the disabled list after an April 18 start in Minnesota after only one-third of inning with a right elbow strain. That was after he had opened the season with 17 scoreless innings, including a one-hitter at Boston and striking out 12 Athletics in the season opener. As it turned out on Friday, Hernandez was pulled with tightness in his lower back, which he said was caused by sitting for long innings. Hernandez was unhappy about leaving, begging to be allowed to stay in the game. "I said, 'I can pitch. I can pitch. Let me pitch. I'm fine.'" Hernandez said. Hargrove, however, was not about to let his 21-year-old ace stay in a blowout game with his back sore. "I'd rather be safe than sorry," Hargrove said. "He wasn't real happy. It [the conversation] started out in Spanish and I ended it in English. I don't mind a guy arguing like that, but with any pitcher, you're really running the risk of them compensating in some other way and pulling a muscle, putting a strain on their forearm. There's no reason for him to stay in that game. The game was already out of hand." Hernandez left after 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out five and walking two. "I wasn't happy," Hernandez said of leaving. "I like to stay in the game. I'm the kind of pitcher that I don't like to be out of the game in five innings. My arm feels good, that is the important thing. Hargrove said he would be "extremely shocked" if Hernandez misses his next start. "On a scale of one to 10, this is a one-and-a-half," Hargrove said. Seeing Hernandez leave prematurely, however, sent shock waves through the Mariners until they learned the extent of the injury. "I was watching in the clubhouse on the TV," said designated hitter Jose Vidro, who homered in the three-run sixth. "When I saw that, I closed my eyes and said, 'No way.' I was scared when I saw that. Everybody was shocked for a moment. We definitely don't need this guy to go down again." The Mariners' bats were anything but down, as they banged out 18 hits for the second straight game. It started with Ichiro Suzuki leading off with a home run, extending his hitting streak to 18 games. The Mariners stroked a season-high seven doubles -- including two by Raul Ibanez -- and nine extra-base hits, which equaled a season best. Ibanez, who scored three runs, had not started seven of the previous eight games because of back spasms. "Having him hit in the middle of our order really sets everybody up," Hargrove said. Ibanez scored from first in the first inning on Richie Sexson's double. "Richie tested me right away with ball in the gap, and fortunately I made it home," Ibanez said. "I tried to stay smoother running. I'm not that smooth of a runner." Every Mariners starter had at least one hit, while seven had multi-hit games. Adrian Beltre snapped an 0-for-13 skid with three hits, including a double. Yuniesky Betancourt also had three hits with a double. Vidro is hitting .435 on this road trip, raising his average to .317. Ichiro hiked his average to .339 and is hitting .443 in his streak. "Nothing out of the ordinary," Hargrove said of Ichiro. "He's just real productive right now. He's just a very special hitter, and right now he's got it going in that direction, so his at-bats are nice. He's just Ichiro." Former Mariner Gil Meche gave up a career high 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings and took the loss. He, like Hernandez, left with tightness in his lower back.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.