Hernandez (0-5) was unable to notch a win for an 11th consecutive decision, his inability to put away struggling Seattle hitters proving costly in a 5-1 Orioles loss to the Mariners, Baltimore's third successive defeat.
"I think he probably feels like he's got to go out there and throw a shutout, and you can't blame him for that, because for the amount of times that he's gone out there and pitched, he's got to be very well aware that we're not scoring any runs for him," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "So any mistake that he makes, he probably feels is going to cost him."
Hernandez allowed five runs -- four earned -- on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out four. The Orioles have lost 14 of 16 games started by the right-hander since he beat Oakland on Aug. 11, 2009.
His skid is the second longest by a Baltimore starting pitcher, trailing only Mike Boddicker's streak of 13 consecutive winless decisions from Sept. 9, 1987-May 14, 1988. Hernandez snapped a dubious tie with Jay Tibbs, who dropped 10 successive decisions from July 14-Oct. 1, 1988.
The Orioles haven't helped Hernandez much, scoring only six runs when he's in the game and 20 in his seven starts. But at the onset, Hernandez appeared ready to put his teammates on his shoulders by mowing down the Mariners, who had lost eight of nine games.
And he didn't dispute the notion that the lack of offense is forcing him into a corner where he can't make a mistake. But Hernandez said he tries to use what some would pinpoint as a reason for his struggles as a motivator.
"I am going out there every start trying to pitch perfect," Hernandez said. "If you are not going out there to pitch perfect, then there is no reason to be out there. That's my goal every time I step on the mound -- to get that next guy out."
Hernandez cruised through the first four innings, allowing only Michael Saunders' two-out double to right in the third. But light-hitting Ryan Langerhans, who averages only a homer every 40 at-bats during a journeyman career, led off the fifth by hitting a 2-1 fastball into the right-center-field bleachers for his first home run.
"I really thought David was on his way to pitching one of his better games," Trembley said. "[The] first four innings, his fastball was outstanding. He was pitching down, and then as soon as [Langerhans] hit the home run, he went to his breaking ball and changeup, and they added on some runs."
Hernandez later loaded the bases in the fifth before issuing a two-out walk to Chone Figgins, who was hitting .182, on a 3-2 pitch. At least Figgins was a career .313 hitter against the Orioles, though their longtime tormentor was 0-for-13 against Baltimore pitching in 2010 at that point.
"It definitely helps when [they] do get some runs for you, but after I did give up the home run, I just felt like I have to get the next guy out and keep it there at 1-0 and get back into the dugout," Hernandez said. "I just wasn't able to do that."
Seattle put together a three-run sixth, chasing Hernandez. With two outs, Jack Wilson and Ken Griffey Jr. drew walks and advanced on a wild pitch, Hernandez's second of the game. Rob Johnson followed with an RBI single to left, and a second run scored when left fielder Nolan Reimold couldn't handle the ball. Jason Berken relieved and yielded a run-scoring single to right by Saunders.
"I broke in and then I paused to get a read," Reimold said. "It turns out that my initial break was right. By the time I got the read on it, it was a tweener and I didn't get to it. Johnson's single in the sixth -- just a bad play, just a botch. And then it went between my legs, pretty embarrassing."
While Hernandez was faltering, left-hander Cliff Lee was scattering eight hits and allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings to record his first win with the Mariners. Lee (1-1), who was acquired from the Phillies in an offseason trade and whose season debut was delayed by a stint on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, walked none and fanned two in Seattle's second successive victory after eight consecutive losses.
"[Lee] was outstanding from the get-go," said Orioles designated hitter Ty Wigginton. "He was using both sides of the plate. He's got a Cy Young for a reason and he showed it tonight."
Trembley sounded as if Hernandez could have learned something from watching Lee, who didn't show his whole repertoire the first time through the lineup and had something in reserve when he had to pitch out of trouble.
Garrett Atkins drove in the lone Baltimore run with a two-out bloop single to right off Lee in the seventh. Atkins' hit followed Wigginton's double and a Matt Wieters single.
"Lee showed why he's special, because when he got in trouble, he went to his fastball," Trembley said. "He dialed it up and he got the big out when he had to. We didn't get the timely hit when we needed to, and they added on."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.