SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez put an exclamation on the best first half of his career by outpitching Jeff Samardzija and shutting down the team with the top record in baseball.
The next start for Seattle’s ace could come Tuesday night for the American League in the All-Star game.
“An honor. I would love to do it,” Hernandez said. “We’ll see.”
Hernandez continued his roll with eight strong innings, Robinson Cano hit a go-ahead double and the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 Friday night.
Hernandez (11-2) reached 11 victories before the All-Star break for the first time in his career, getting nicked for two early runs and then shutting down the A.L. West-leading A’s the rest of the night.
Hernandez made his 11th straight start going at least seven innings and giving up two earned runs or less. It’s the longest streak for an A.L. pitcher since Gaylord Perry had 11 straight for Cleveland in 1974. The only longer streaks were by Tom Seaver (13 games in 1971) and Mike Scott (12 games in 1986).
Fernando Rodney got his 27th save, although the ninth wasn’t without fireworks. Rodney walked Derek Norris, who reached third with two outs. Rodney then went to 3-2 on Nick Punto and got him on a called strike three to end the game.
Punto slammed his batting helmet to the ground with both hands and argued with plate umpire James Hoye, and A’s manager Bob Melvin joined in, saying the full-count pitch missed the strike zone.
“All the pitches are strikes,” Rodney quipped afterward.
Melvin and the A’s found no humor in the call.
“I thought it was a little up, maybe a little in. It was just one of those the heat of the moment gets to you a bit,” Punto said.
Cano came through with the clutch base hit Seattle has lacked of late. James Jones doubled with two outs in the sixth and Cano followed with a flare that landed inches fair down the left-field line to break a 2-all tie.
Seattle had been 2 for 35 with runners in scoring position prior to Cano’s double.
Hernandez struck out nine and gave up six hits. He rebounded following a shaky first inning to stop the team with the best record in baseball.
Oakland scored a pair of rare first-inning runs off Seattle’s ace.
Stephen Vogt’s solo homer was just the sixth allowed by Hernandez this season, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Josh Donaldson followed with a double and scored on Jed Lowrie’s single that sneaked through the infield.
Hernandez had given up three first-inning runs all season.
But after Lowrie’s single, Hernandez permitted just four baserunners. He struck out the side in the fourth and sixth innings and needed just five pitches to cruise through the seventh.
“I was locked in. I was throwing a lot of strikes,” Hernandez said. “After that everything was working.”
Hernandez found himself in a jam in the fifth with runners on the corners and two outs, but Donaldson flied out.
After Vogt led off the eighth with a single, Donaldson grounded into a double play, drawing a fist pump and scream from Hernandez. He then got Brandon Moss to ground out on his 101st pitch to end the eighth and his night.
Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said the adjustment after the first was using more offspeed pitches early in the count and Hernandez being able to throw those for strikes.
“Just to have them take a pitch and he was able to do that and work ahead,” Zunino said.
Seattle chipped away at Samardzija, starting with Logan Morrison’s homer leading off the second. Seattle pulled even in the third when Brad Miller doubled, advanced to third on Zunino’s groundout and scored on Endy Chavez’s sacrifice fly.
Samardzija threw eight innings, allowing only five hits and striking out five.