May 21, 2012 in Sports

M’s make it four in a row

Tim Booth Associated Press
 
Kevin Casey photo

Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez throws in the first inning against Texas Rangers’ Ian Kinsler during a baseball game in Seattle on Monday, May 21, 2012.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners chased Texas’ Yu Darvish after just four innings in his shortest start of the season, and the Mariners rolled to their fourth straight win, a 6-1 victory over the Rangers on Monday night.

Felix Hernandez (4-3) rebounded from consecutive poor starts to hold the top offense in baseball to one run in eight innings.

Seattle became the first team that Darvish had to face for a second time and for a second time he struggled to solve the Mariners. Darvish (6-2) labored through 96 pitches and a season-high six walks and was denied the chance to become the first seven-game winner in the majors.

Only Seattle’s inability to take advantage of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth inning kept Darvish’s line from being worse. Suzuki singled and tripled off his countryman, driving in a pair of runs as Seattle built on its three-game sweep of Colorado during the weekend.

Monday was a chance to see how Darvish would handle facing a team the second time around. While Darvish was off to a solid start – subtract the five runs in the first two innings against the Mariners in his debut and his ERA since then is 1.94 – all his starts were against teams seeing the Japanese star for the first time.

And Seattle had plenty of success – for two innings – when they saw Darvish for the first time back in April. The Mariners rattled Darvish for eight hits and five earned runs that day, but the Rangers gave Darvish enough offense to make that first start a victory.

This time, Seattle had nearly as much offensive success – trading hits for walks – but the Rangers bats were getting silenced by Hernandez.

Darvish’s troubles started almost immediately. He walked Michael Saunders with one out in the first and Suzuki immediately ripped a shot over first base and down the right field line.

But instead of bouncing off the short-wall in foul territory and into the outfield, the ball hit and stayed at the base of the wall. Saunders scored from first and Suzuki strolled into third without a throw and an early lead for Hernandez.

Seattle gave Hernandez a bigger cushion in the third inning. With two runners on and one out, Suzuki sent a single into shallow center that scored Dustin Ackley from second. Saunders was aggressive and tried to go first to third on the hit, and instead jogged home when Josh Hamilton’s throw from center soared over third baseman Adrian Beltre and into the Rangers dugout on the fly. Rookie Jesus Montero followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center that scored Suzuki.

Darvish continued to struggle in the fourth, walking the bases loaded to start the inning. Ackley’s RBI single scored John Jaso, but Darvish got infield groundouts by Saunders and Suzuki and a strikeout of Kyle Seager to end the inning and limit the damage.

Montero added an RBI double in the seventh off reliever Yoshinori Tateyama.

Darvish had pitched into at least the sixth inning of all eighth of his previous starts.

While Darvish struggled, Hernandez was back to his top form. After consecutive poor starts, Hernandez allowed six hits and took a shutout into the eighth before Mitch Moreland hit a leadoff homer to deep right-center field. It marked the 15th straight game Texas hit at least one homer, but Hernandez finished off the inning, and his night, with a strikeout of Hamilton on his 110th pitch. Hernandez struck out seven Rangers and walked two.

Hernandez allowed a combined 21 hits and 10 earned runs in his previous two starts.

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