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Hernandez ends on high note

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez got a little extra out of his 2006 season.

Hernandez pitched seven strong innings and Adrian Beltre backed him with two home runs, leading the Seattle Mariners over the Texas Rangers 3-1 Saturday.

The Mariners planned to limit the 20-year-old Hernandez to a total of 200 innings this year. He’d already pitched 184 during the regular season and 14 in spring training going into this final start, so the team planned to hold him to six innings – allowing for a few over the maximum.

“His pitch count was so low and he was throwing so effortlessly and hadn’t had really any tough innings,” said manager Mike Hargrove, who discussed Hernandez’s pitch count with general manager Bill Bavasi during the game.

Hernandez (12-14) allowed four hits and faced only one batter more than the minimum through the first 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

Even a tweaked calf couldn’t stop Hernandez.

When the righty planted his right foot after his delivery to Michael Young in the fourth, Hernandez walked gingerly off the mound as he favored his left calf.

“It worried me a little bit,” Hernandez said.

After a huddle at the mound between Mariners personnel and Hernandez, he threw two practice pitches.

Then he waved them off and got Young to ground out on the next pitch.

“Everybody talks about his potential to be a good pitcher,” Texas catcher Gerald Laird said. “He’s already a good pitcher. His potential is off the charts.”

Joel Pineiro pitched the eighth and J.J. Putz worked the ninth for his 35th save in 42 opportunities.

Beltre hit a two-run homer with two outs in the third for a 2-0 lead. His drive scored Ichiro Suzuki, who had singled.

“It felt good – especially since it ended up being the winning run,” Beltre said.

Beltre’s leadoff home run in the sixth was his 25th shot of the season. He also connected Friday night against Texas.

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