"Everything's happened to me before. I know I can get out of this, and it's happened before, so it's no surprise."The surprise in this one came in that the D-backs suffered their biggest loss of the year, with the usually steady Hernandez on the mound against Tampa Bay's Edwin Jackson, who entered with an 0-8 record and a 8.20 ERA. The Rays jumped on Hernandez (5-5) early and often, scoring single runs in the first three innings and in five of seven overall. In all, Hernandez gave up six runs on a season-high 12 hits, including five for extra bases, in six-plus innings. "He just didn't have his best stuff today," manager Bob Melvin said. "They got on him early, scored three runs in the first three innings, and we had some decent at-bats early on, came back, made it 3-2. But he just didn't have his best command, didn't have his best stuff all the way around." Melvin said Hernandez suffered no carryover effect from his last start Wednesday against the Yankees, when he gave up seven runs on nine hits in four innings of a 7-2 loss. "The more important thing is to try to get up when you're struggling," Hernandez said. "My mind is very strong. You're not going to pull me down, so you've got to try to work." Although Hernandez bounced back after his previous poor outings, there has been a distinct difference in the Cuban pitcher in wins and losses. He sports an 11.16 ERA in his five losses, and a 2.15 ERA in his 10 other starts, something Melvin had no explanation for. Hernandez still ranks tied for fourth in the National League with 11 quality starts.
"He's had a lot of good outings for us, and he's had a couple of bad ones, and when you have two in a row like that, it kind of stands out," Melvin said. "So just not his best command, not his best stuff both times out."The Devil Rays executed their game plan to go the other way against Hernandez. They also stayed aggressive while working the count, twice knocking out home runs on 3-2 pitches. Despite facing a squad with a number of hitters he had never faced, Hernandez mentioned that he ranks among the Major League leaders in Interleague wins, leading him to conclude that an unfamiliar Devil Rays squad did not lead to the poor outing.
"Sometimes you take advantage and sometimes you don't," he said. "Sometimes they surprise you like tonight and the Yankees. It happens in baseball. You can't do nothing. Tomorrow is a new day. When the day comes, you try to win the game."Hernandez did not get much help from an offense that struggled in the middle innings, much like it did during its recent six-game road trip. The problem this time was that the D-backs' hitters were unable to turn it on late like they did in comeback wins of a sweep of Baltimore over the weekend. After a Stephen Drew single to lead off the fourth, the D-backs did not record another hit before going through the batting order twice, when Drew singled again with one out in the ninth. Jason Hammel (1-0) picked up his first big-league win with 2 1/3 perfect innings as part of that stretch after relieving Jackson, who left the game with cramping and fatigue in his right index finger tendon one out away from becoming eligible for his first victory of the season. "We've been having trouble really with the middle innings," said Melvin, who thought his team played without much energy. "It seems like our approach has been pretty good early on. It's just those middle innings where we've really struggled, and we addressed it today where we've got to keep the pedal on when we're having good at-bats early on." With the loss, the D-backs remained winless in seven chances against the Devil Rays, the squad Arizona entered the league with in 1998. "That's the way it is," said second baseman Orlando Hudson. "Sometimes you may face one pitcher that has a guy's number. They got us right now, so hopefully tomorrow we break that drought." Hernandez also looks to break his own personal drought, a situation he has pitched through time and time again, when he takes the hill this weekend against Baltimore. "It's happened to everybody," Hernandez said. "It's happened to any pitcher. It doesn't surprise me. I know I've got to have a little bit of trouble every year.
"I've had two bad games, so I've got to fix it. I've got to see how to get out of the bad times."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.