Hernandez looks to pitch Mariners past host Padres

SAN DIEGO — Can a return to Petco Park in San Diego get Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners back on track?

History as well as the Padres‘ 2018 season says Seattle’s trip to San Diego Tuesday and Wednesday might be exactly what Hernandez and the Mariners need to rekindle their fading playoff hopes in the American League West.

There is a flicker of hope here as the third-place Mariners come to San Diego trailing Houston by 6 1/2 games in the division race and Oakland by five games in the race for the American League’s second wild-card berth.

While the Mariners are playing the worst team in the National League — aka, the Padres — the A’s and Astros will be going head to head in Houston.

The Mariners need a sweep of their two games in San Diego — the first half of a four-game, home-and-home with the Padres — and that is an attainable goal. The Padres return from a 1-5 road trip against National League playoff contenders Colorado and the Dodgers after losing three of four to division-leading Arizona at home.

If the Mariners are struggling, the Padres are plummeting. San Diego has gone 7-15 over its last 22 games and are on pace to lose 101 games.

And while Felix Hernandez hasn’t exactly been a “King” this season, he has always been the emperor of the Padres, particularly in San Diego.

The 32-year-old, 6-foot-3, 225-pound Venezuelan has a 6-3 lifetime record against the Padres with a 2.90 earned run average in 12 starts with a .228 opponents’ batting average and a 1.076 WHIP.

But he’s been even tougher on the Padres in San Diego.

Hernandez owns a 5-0 lifetime record in seven starts at Petco Park with a 1.51 ERA, a 0.764 WHIP and a .171 opponents’ batting average. In 53 2/3 innings at Petco Park — or almost eight innings per start — Hernandez has given up nine runs on 31 hits and 10 walks with 60 strikeouts.

Overall, Hernandez has made 12 starts against the Padres. He has given up 28 runs (27 earned) on 69 hits and 21 walks with 87 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings.

But does that Hernandez still exist? The Venezuelan has struggled this season … and the situation is not getting better as we enter the final month of the season.

Hernandez is 8-11 this season with a 5.64 ERA and a 1.415 WHIP in 25 starts. Over his last four appearances (three starts), Hernandez is 0-2 with a 5.96 ERA and a 1.456 WHIP. And on the road this season, Hernandez is 4-6 with a 7.ERA and a 1.624 WHIP in 12 games (11 starts).

Opposing Hernandez Tuesday will be 22-year-old Padres rookie right-hander Jacob Nix. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound Nix is 1-2 after three starts with a 6.17 ERA. After allowing only four hits and two walks over six scoreless innings in his major league debut on Aug. 10, Nix has allowed eight runs on 10 hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in his two most recent starts.

Nix will be facing the Mariners for the first time in his career. This will also be his first interleague game.