SEATTLE – With Ichiro Suzuki traded to the New York Yankees, Felix Hernandez has ascended to the status of ranking Seattle Mariner, both in service time and stature.
And on Tuesday, in a 4-2 Seattle victory, he showed again that he is worthy of the distinction.
In working 7 1/3 strong innings for his fifth straight victory, Hernandez proved to be a pain to the Yankees, literally and figuratively. He limited them to two runs on four hits, working out of several tense jams, and hit three batters over a five-batter stretch in the seventh and eighth innings. The final one, Alex Rodriguez, broke his left hand and is headed to the disabled list.
Hernandez (9-5) is not reticent about calling fellow Venezuelan Freddy Garcia his idol, and in this game he outpitched Garcia (4-4) to continue his torrid stretch of pitching. In his last eight starts, he is 5-0 with a 1.49 earned-run average, striking out 63 in 60 1/3 innings.
The Mariners didn’t have a hit after the third inning until Kyle Seager’s bases-loaded infield single with two outs in the eighth for a huge insurance run.
Tom Wilhelmsen worked a one-two-three ninth for his 11th save.
Hernandez got off to an inauspicious start, giving up a home run to the second batter he faced. Curtis Granderson, who had struck out 18 times in 48 career at-bats against Hernandez, knocked the first pitch he saw into the right-field stands for his 27th homer.
But the Mariners responded immediately in the bottom of the first, when their No. 2 hitter, Michael Saunders, did the same: a home run to right field (Ichiro barely moved) that tied the game at 1-all.
Saunders was again an instigator as the Mariners got the runs they needed for Hernandez in the third. Brendan Ryan began the rally with an infield single off Garcia’s foot. Dustin Ackley flied out to Ichiro on the track, but Saunders singled to right, and Ryan hustled to third, beating Ichiro’s throw.
Jesus Montero followed with a broken-bat single to right, and the Mariners again challenged Ichiro’s arm, with Saunders beating his strong throw to third. John Jaso delivered a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 Seattle lead.
Hernandez hit Ichiro on the foot on a 2-2 pitch in the seventh – the first time Ichiro has been hit since July 20, 2010, by Chicago’s John Danks. The Yankees’ trainer came out, but Ichiro was OK.
That was a precursor for wildness to come. Hernandez hit Jeter leading off the eighth. Then, after striking out Granderson again, he hit A-Rod on his left hand on a 2-2 pitch. At that point, manager Eric Wedge pulled Hernandez, who walked three while striking out four. He threw 117 pitches.
The Mariners pushed across a run in the eighth. The Yankees issued three walks to load the bases with two outs when Seager, on a 2-2 pitch, checked his swing and hit a dribbler off his fists up the third-base line. Third baseman Jayson Nix had no play as Ackley scored.