The Orioles (45-63) had seen the same deal in his previous two starts, when Hernandez beat Boston and then got blasted by the Red Sox in his very next outing. The rookie right-hander completed five innings in each of his first seven starts, but now he's been knocked out before completing five in two straight outings.
"He wasn't throwing on all cylinders today," said manager Dave Trembley. "It wasn't his day. His fastball velocity was down. He struggled with his command and he never got in any kind of rhythm at all. He got a lot of hitters to two strikes [and] couldn't put them away, ran the counts deep. He had trouble getting the third out. I thought it was just one of those days where he didn't have anything. He competed but I had to get him out of there."
Detroit (57-50) batted around in the second inning, with much of the damage coming from the bottom half of the order. Hernandez rebounded after Inge's homer to get the second out, but then No. 9 hitter Ramon Santiago tripled to right-center. Curtis Granderson doubled him in and scored on a single by Placido Polanco.
From there, much of the game was anticlimactic. Hernandez gave up another run in the third inning, and Brian Bass allowed two runs over the next three innings. Baltimore managed to shut the Tigers out for the rest of the game and made a belated charge, but wound up falling 18 games below .500 for the first time all year.
The Orioles have gone 5-15 since the All-Star break, with 10 of those losses coming by two runs or less.
"It's growing pains, obviously," Trembley said. "It's not anything that you want to go through, but you understand it's part of the territory [and] that you're going to have to get over the hump and learn from it. I think as long as you have guys that their makeup is such that they can learn from it, they can handle it. ... Everybody learns from this experience. There's nothing like playing at the highest level. That's what these guys are doing. They're not getting beat by American Legion teams. They're facing the best that there is, and that's how you get better."
On Thursday, that meant facing Detroit rookie Rick Porcello, who held the road team to one baserunner in the first four innings. The Orioles broke up a no-hitter and the shutout in the fifth, when Ty Wigginton netted a leadoff single and scored on a two-out hit by Felix Pie. Wigginton also doubled in a run in the sixth.
"I thought he threw the ball well," second baseman Brian Roberts said of Porcello. "He obviously has a pretty good idea how to pitch. Doesn't have the best stuff on that staff, but that's not a negative thing when you look at that staff. But he knows how to pitch he knows how to get outs. You can tell that from facing him one time."
The Orioles are well acquainted with the ups and downs of rookie pitchers, especially considering that they have four first-year starters in the rotation and another pair currently stashed on the disabled list. Hernandez, who generally works from 93-94 mph, had a sharply reduced fastball and diminished command on Thursday.
The former 13th-round Draft pick said he could tell from the outset that he didn't have his best stuff, and that caused him to press and overthrow. Hernandez (3-4) often got batters to two strikes and then couldn't finish them off, and he said that he tried to work through his abbreviated start to the best of his ability.
"You always know throughout the season that you're going to get hit hard, but you still want to be able to go out there and battl," he said. "You want to think that you're going to go out there and throw six or seven innings strong every time you go out there, but it's just not going to happen like that. These guys are big league hitters. They know what they're doing. And I've faced these guys, so it's not like I was intimidated.
"I knew I could succeed against them. It's just one of those days where I didn't have my best stuff."
"That's what you're going to get out of young guys," added Trembley. "You're going to have a couple great ones, then you're going to have so-so, then you're going to have a bad one. Today was a bad one."