SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez laid another layer of quality pitching onto his American League Cy Young Award argument Friday night at Safeco Field.
In the process he came within six outs of a no-hitter.
Hernandez held the Texas Rangers without a hit through seven innings before Nelson Cruz homered on the second pitch of the eighth. Then he and closer David Aardsma finished off a 2-1 Seattle Mariners victory.
Hernandez walked the first hitter of the game, Elvis Andrus, before getting the next 21 outs, including eight by strikeout. He wasn’t just throwing no-hit stuff, it was nearly no-touch stuff.
He struck Andrus out in the sixth on a 93 mph pitch that broke so sharply it nearly hit the Rangers’ leadoff hitter in the leg.
“I came into the dugout after the strikeout to Andrus and somebody asked, ‘What was that pitch?’ ” catcher Adam Moore said. “I said, ‘Change-up.’ ” They started laughing and said, ‘But it was 93 on the gun.’ I had no idea it was 93, but that’s the kind of night he was having. Throwing 93 with your change-up, then coming back later in the game throwing it 84-85, that shows you what he’s capable of doing in every outing he has.”
The timing couldn’t have been better considering Hernandez’s place in the Cy Young Award consideration.
After a rough outing last weekend against the Angels, Friday night’s victory was a positive step in his quest to prove that it takes more than an impressive record to be considered the league’s best pitcher.
Hernandez is only 12-11 thanks to the Mariners’ slim run support. But his earned run average dropped to 2.35 and his eight strikeouts increased his league-leading total to 222.
Two other favorites for the A.L. Cy Young pitch today – the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia against the Orioles and the Rays’ David Price against the Angels. Sabathia is 19-6 with a 3.03 ERA and Price 17-6, 2.75.
Hernandez lost the no-hitter in the most convincing way after throwing ball one to Cruz to start the eighth inning. He threw a fastball on the next pitch and Cruz crushed it over the center field fence.
“Fastball is my best pitch,” Hernandez said. “It was up a little bit, he put a good swing on it and he got it.”
From there, Hernandez had to pull off some of his best pitching of the game.
Visibly let down, Hernandez got Ian Kinsler to fly out but he gave up back-to-back singles to Mitch Moreland and pinch hitter Chris Davis that put runners on first and second with one out.
With the Mariners leading 2-1, Hernandez’s victory clearly was at stake, and both Moore and pitching coach Carl Willis went to the mound to settle him. He got Julio Borbon on a popup and Andrus on a grounder, and walked off the mound.
The Mariners’ hitters backed him with just enough to win.
Franklin Gutierrez scored in the second inning after an infield hit, a stolen base and a wild pitch by Rangers starter C.J. Wilson. Ichiro Suzuki scored in the third when he singled with one out, stole both second and third base and scored on Chone Figgins’ RBI single.