May 5, 2012 in Sports

M’s back Hernandez in blanking of Twins

Geoff Baker Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez tosses to first on a sacrifice by Minnesota Twins’ Jamey Carroll in the fourth inning Saturday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

SEATTLE – Getting their staff ace to shut down one of the worst offenses in baseball wasn’t the key to the Seattle Mariners finally snapping their losing streak at seven games.

Felix Hernandez barely broke a sweat over eight innings Saturday night, while his veteran mound opponent could barely find the strike zone at the best of times. And yet, what became a 7-0 win for the Mariners wasn’t really decided until Kyle Seager finally helped Seattle do something with runners on base during what was then a scoreless game in the sixth.

Seager’s two-run, two-out single opened the offensive floodgates for the Mariners and helped ensure the one-hit ball tossed by Hernandez did not go to waste. Steve Delabar would finish off the ninth to give the Mariners their third combined one-hitter in club history, joining 10 others tossed individually by starting pitchers alone.

“Any time you’ve got Felix on the mound, you feel like you’ve got a good opportunity,” Seager said. “Our pitching has been great as of late, for sure. We’ve just got to score more runs. Today, fortunately, we were able to get a few across for him.”

Seager got across more than a few all by himself, cashing in a pair with his single off Twins starter Jason Marquis. Then, in the seventh, with three more runs already across that frame, Seager capped his night with a first-pitch homer into the right-field seats off one-time Mariners reliever Jeff Gray.

That provided a rare cruise to the finish for Hernandez in front of 28,437 fans at Safeco Field. He struck out nine batters, while walking just two over his eight innings before being lifted with a pitch count at 107 and a huge lead.

Hernandez has gone at least seven innings in his last five starts while allowing no more than two runs in any. But things haven’t always ended this well, as witnessed Monday when his eight frames of one-run ball went for naught in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay in 12 innings.

So, Hernandez was thrilled after Ichiro Suzuki blew open a close game in the seventh with a two-run triple that made it 5-0 before Seager homered.

“Awesome, awesome, awesome!” Hernandez said in the clubhouse afterward. “That’s how we win.”

For the first five innings, the Mariners had given a showcase to how they had lost seven straight. Marquis had somehow entered with a 2-0 record despite a 6.23 earned-run average.

He walked six batters, but used three double-play grounders to escape early trouble and keep things scoreless. Hernandez had seen this act before and knew he needed to keep things close against a Minnesota offense that has scored in just one inning out of its past 36.

It looked like the Twins might finally score in a second inning during that span when Denard Span led off the fourth with a single to right off Hernandez. Two walks later, the bases were loaded with two out and Chris Parmelee up.

“That was a big time right there in that situation with the bases loaded,” Hernandez said. “I fell behind 2-1 and then I just tried to throw a good sinker. And he popped it up.”


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