July 30, 2012 in Sports

M’s put finishing touches on first 4-game home sweep since ‘01

Tim Booth Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Felix Hernandez looks at his wrist after being hit by a ball.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Even a line drive that left the lower part of Felix Hernandez’s left-hand bruised and swollen couldn’t knock out the Seattle Mariners’ ace.

Good thing, since the Mariners’ relievers did their best to try and blow a shot at Seattle’s first four-game sweep at home in more than a decade.

Hernandez shook off a line drive to his left wrist and threw seven strong innings, and the Mariners overcame bullpen problems to beat the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Sunday.

Seattle swept Kansas City in a four-game set for the first time since May 2001 and was the first time the Mariners recorded a four-game sweep at home since early in the 2001 season against the Angels. Seattle went on to win 116 games that season.

There won’t be any win records this season for Seattle. But the M’s are taking advantage of weak points in their scheduling, winning seven of eight games against the Royals since the All-Star break.

“These are the types of games you’re glad you’re the home team and get those final at-bats,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “Ultimately we had some guys step up late.”

Hernandez was on pace for his sixth straight win, giving up just five hits and two runs. But he lost out on that chance when the Mariners’ bullpen gave up three runs in the eighth.

As they did previously in the series, Seattle’s bats answered immediately. Mike Carp opened the Seattle eighth with his third hit, a double that thudded off the wall in left. Munenori Kawasaki came on as a pinch-runner and Trayvon Robinson laid down a perfect sacrifice up the third-base line.

Reliever Jose Mijares (2-2) fielded the bunt, but his throw was rushed and the ball went rolling into foul territory as Kawasaki scored the go-ahead run. Casper Wells added an RBI single later in the inning.

Even though Hernandez didn’t get the decision, his performance Sunday continued a brilliant six weeks of pitching from the former Cy Young Award winner. Hernandez has not lost since June 12 and has allowed a combined 12 earned runs over his last 67 1/3 innings, watching his ERA plummet from 3.70 to 2.79 over the last nine starts.

Hernandez got a scare in the fourth when he hung a 3-2 breaking ball to Eric Hosmer that was lined back up the middle and off the inside of the right-hander’s left hand near his wrist. Hernandez grimaced in discomfort, but never left the field.

Hernandez struggled to start the fifth, giving up a run on Alcides Escobar’s infield groundout, but retired his final nine batters. He struck out six and walked two.

“A little bruised. It’s fine,” Hernandez said. “They were not going to take me out today.”

X-rays on Hernandez’s hand were negative, Wedge said.

Seattle is 11-6 since the All-Star break – second best in the A.L.

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