CRUZ HOMERS, HANIGER HAS HOMER TAKEN OFF BOARD
What happened: Felix Hernandez might not have the top fastball to blow hitters away anymore, but he’s been solid in three starts. His performance on Friday night was the best so far.
The Seattle Mariners ace allowed one run on six hits with no walks and led the M’s to a 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Hernandez left to a standing ovation after allowing Carlos Gomez’ one-out single in the eighth. While the strikeout total (3) was not gaudy, the line remained impressive, and the Mariners ace has yet to issue a base on balls in three starts.
The Mariners got just enough offense. Nelson Cruz finally launched his first home and Mitch Haniger drove in a run with a ground-rule single, initially ruled a homer by third base umpire CB Bucknor, which clearly hit the yellow line on the top of the wall and not over it.
- Hernandez tossed an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning, including a strikeout of Shin-Soo Choo on a wicked breaking ball and nice defensive play by Danny Valencia to hold the bag at first on a wide throw by shortstop Taylor Motter.
- With Martin Perez having trouble finding the strike zone, the Mariners put two on with one out in the first, but Nelson Cruz grounded a 3-1 fastball into a 5-4-3 double play to kill the threat.
- Cruz redeemed himself (a bit) with a solo shot to dead center in the fourth for his first homer of the season. Kyle Seager and Taylor Motter followed with singles and it looked like Perez lost his release point on a walk to Valencia to load ’em up. But Mike Zunino struck out on three pitches, watching a borderline four-seam called for strike three.
- Meanwhile, Hernandez was cruising. In a nine-pitch fifth he picked up a couple of ground out and just his second K, getting Joey Gallo looking with a curveball.
- In the sixth. Jurickson Profar singled, and Carlos Gomez bunted right out in front of the plate, but Zunino couldn’t come up with the ball and all hands were safe. Choo hit a hard grounder to third for a double play, but Nomar Mazara snuck a ground ball through Hernandez’ legs and into center field for to plate Profar and tie the game. Hernandez came back to strike out Mike Napoli to limit the damage.
- The M’s mounted a threat in the bottom half but came up empty. Cruz walked and Seager singled, ending Perez’ night. But Jose Leclerc came on and impressively struck out the side, all swinging at breaking balls.
- Cano then bounced into a routine double play to end what could have been a big inning.
- Nervous time in the ninth when Zunino couldn’t block one of Edwin Diaz’ sliders and Elvis Andrus, who was running on the play, went all the way to third. But Diaz got Jonathan Lucroy to bounce out to Seager to end it, mercifully, for his second save of the year.
Mitch Haniger appeared to have hit a three-run homer in the seventh, as signaled by third base umpire CB Bucknor, but after review replay confirmed the ball hit the yellow line at the top of the outfield fence. Haniger was awarded a ground-rule single and one run scored. Still, it was a mighty clout to pull a ball on the outside half that hard.
If this is the new Hernandez, the Mariners can not only live with it, but thrive. His walk rate had climbed each of the past three seasons to an unsightly 3.8 per nine innings last season, but he has yet to issue a free pass in three starts encompassing 18 1/3 innings. The veteran’s performance in 2017 is going to be key to any success the M’s are to have.
Tweet of the Day
CB Bucknor can make fans boo in so many ways.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 15, 2017
Players of the Game
Hero: Felix Hernandez. C’mon. Like there’s another choice.
Goat: Mike Zunino. 0 for 3. Three strikeouts. Five left on base. Couldn’t block Diaz’ slider in the dirt and couldn’t come up with the bunt that led to the Rangers’ only run. Tough night for the backstop all the way around.
Felix Hernandez recorded his 117th career start of at least 7.0 innings pitched while allowing one run or fewer, most in the Majors since his debut in 2005…Mitch Haniger has hit in eight straight, batting 344 over the span…The Mariners went 2 for 9 with RISP, stranding eight…Mark Rzepcyynski entered with one out and a runner on first in the eighth and got the next two batters for his third hold of the season…Danny Valencia went 0 for 3 and is hitting .132…Guillermo Heredia made his first start of the season in left field and led off. He went 1 for 4…Jarrod Dyson went 2 for 3 with a stolen base, his third…
Seattle Mariners (3-8) vs. Texas Rangers (4-6) on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. at Safeco Field. LHP James Paxton (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (2016 w/SD & MIA: 5-11, 5.25 ERA)
What others are saying
Hernandez’s gem righted the good ship Mariner for one night at least, in the 2-1 win over the Rangers. And everyone in attendance picked up a mini-statue of Ken Griffey Jr. And got to see an odd single. … Tony Zych is healthy and back in the Mariners’ bullpen.
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