Unfortunately, after throwing 97 brilliant pitches, Seattle's young right-hander didn't have enough energy left to get three more outs. So when the bottom of the ninth started with Hernandez in the Mariners dugout, the Orioles were absolutely delighted.
"How happy was I? Extremely," said Aubrey Huff, who had an RBI during a three-run rally that provided Baltimore with a 3-2 victory Sunday. "Once he came out, I knew we had a chance."
Especially against a bullpen without injured closer J.J. Putz.
Hernandez gave up five hits, struck out six, walked two and left with a 2-0 lead. Mariners manager John McLaren and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre discussed the possibility of sending him out in the ninth, but decided against it.
"Mel told me Felix said he wasn't 100 percent," McLaren said. "So I made a change."
Nick Markakis led off the ninth with a double off Eric O'Flaherty and scored on a groundout by Huff, leaving the bases empty with two outs. After Luke Scott singled, Mark Lowe entered and gave up a single to Jay Payton to put runners at the corners.
Lowe (0-1) then threw a wild pitch to Ramon Hernandez to complete a walk and allow the tying run to score. Luis Hernandez followed with his first hit of the season, a liner to the gap in left center to score Payton without a throw.
Game over. Following their fourth straight victory, someone in the Baltimore clubhouse cranked up an old tune from the team's glorious past -- a little ditty called "Orioles Magic."
"It was a great game for our team," manager Dave Trembley said.
The Orioles were 4-87 when trailing after eight innings last year, and they went 13-31 in one-run games. But after one week of the 2008 season, they stand alone in first place in the AL East.
Scott had his second straight three-hit game, starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed two runs in seven innings and Dennis Sarfate (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the Orioles, who are 3-0 against the Mariners after going 2-7 against them last year.
Felix Hernandez was moved up a day in the Seattle rotation after former Oriole Erik Bedard was scratched due to inflammation of the left hip. Pitching on a bitter cold afternoon, Hernandez was nothing short of brilliant.
"Felix did a great job," McLaren said. "We just couldn't hang on."
Hernandez has not allowed an earned run in 15 innings, but he remains winless. He did, however, earn the respect of the Orioles.
"That guy was dirty. That's the best I've ever seen him throw," Payton said. "I don't know that anybody could throw much better than he threw today."
And after Hernandez left?
"I was happy. Bottom line," Payton said.
But Seattle fell to 2-4 overall and 0-3 on the road. The four-game series ends Monday afternoon, and the Mariners are desperate for a win.
"That would be an understatement," McLaren said.
Seattle went up 1-0 in the third when Suzuki singled and scored on Sexson's two-out liner into the left-field corner.
Ibanez led off the sixth with his first home run, a drive to right. He came in batting .167, but also had a pair of singles in his first multihit game of the year.
Baltimore had only a few scoring chances against Hernandez. Guillermo Quiroz bounced into a double play with two on and one out in the third; Kevin Millar hit an inning-ending liner with two on in the sixth; and Scott was stranded in the seventh after hitting a one-out double, the Orioles' lone extra-base hit off Hernandez.
"He kind of reminded me of the old Pedro (Martinez) days when Pedro was in Boston," Huff said. "He was throwing that good."
- Bedard is expected to start Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
- Seattle's Adrian Beltre went 0-for-3 against Guthrie and is hitless in nine career at-bats against the right-hander.
- Millar has at least one hit in all five games.