SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez made a little history for the Mariners on Friday night, delivering another brilliant performance, which has become the norm this season.
Hernandez pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts.
The outing also was the 13th consecutive start in which Hernandez pitched at least seven innings and allowed two runs or less. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s an American League record and ties the major league record held by Tom Seaver, who did it in 1971.
Yet, it wasn’t good enough for him to get the victory. Chris Davis belted a solo homer to right field off Charlie Furbush in the top of the 10th inning and the Mariners couldn’t answer in the bottom of the inning, falling 2-1.
The Mariners (53-50) have dropped four consecutive games and are 2-6 since the All-Star break. Their 2 1/2-game lead in the race for the second wild card has become a 1 1/2-game deficit.
And there’s only one reason for it.
Right now, Seattle’s apathetic offense can waste the best pitching performance. On this run of Hernandez starts, the Mariners actually lost three of those games and he’s taken a no-decision five times.
But this is nothing new. It was the 29th time in his career he took a no-decision when pitching seven innings or more and allowing one run or fewer. That’s the most in the majors since he made his debut almost 10 seasons ago – a dubious honor he’d prefer not to have.
The M’s scored all of one run in this game, but at least that was an improvement from Thursday.
In the fifth inning, the Mariners watched their best chance to score disappear with their best hitter waiting to bat. With Endy Chavez on second base, James Jones lined a shallow line drive into left field off Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Third-base coach Rich Donnelly gambled and sent Chavez despite left fielder Steve Pearce playing shallow. Pearce’s throw home beat Chavez by about 25 steps. Chavez was out by so much he didn’t even attempt to slide and gave himself up for the final out of the inning.
Robinson Cano didn’t look happy standing in the on-deck circle after the play. His chance to bat with a runner on third was negated.
So he did something about it an inning later. Cano led off the sixth inning with a triple to right field off Gausman. Recently acquired designated hitter Kendrys Morales delivered in his new role hitting behind Cano, lining a ball to right field, which was caught by Nick Markakis.
Cano tagged up and sprinted home. Markakis, who has one of the best outfield arms in baseball, fired a laser all the way home to catcher Caleb Joseph. But Cano made a brilliant slide to the backside of home plate to avoid the possible tag, while sneaking his hand onto the plate to score the Mariners’ first run in 15 innings.
Hernandez’s only significant mistake came in the second inning when he left a first-pitch change-up over the middle of the plate to nemesis Nelson Cruz. The big right-hander hammered a line-drive homer into Edgar’s Cantina in left field. The ball was hit so hard and so low it barely cleared the 15-foot wall.
But that was the only run Hernandez would allow the rest of the night. He worked five innings following that, allowing just three hits the rest of the way. He was done after striking out his 10th batter to end the seventh. It was his fifth start of 10 or more strikeouts this season and 31st of his career.
With the addition of Morales, The M’s sent DH Jesus Montero back to Triple-A Tacoma. … Hernandez surpassed 1,000 innings at Safeco Field. Among active pitchers, only Mark Buehrle (now with Toronto) has more innings pitched at one venue – 1,306 2/3 at U.S. Cellular Field.