Solo home run enough for Mariners to beat Twins
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Felix Hernandez struck out five in a five-hitter and Eric Thames hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to lift the Seattle Mariners to a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Hernandez (13-5), who picked up his 23rd career complete game and ninth shutout, hasn't lost a decision since June 12. Franklin Gutierrez went 1 for 2 with two stolen bases in his first game since June 28 because of a concussion.
Liam Hendriks (0-7) was almost King-like, but it wasn't quite enough to get him his first career victory. He gave up three hits and struck out six in nine outstanding innings, his only blemish the homer to Thames.
Joe Mauer had a single and Justin Morneau had a triple for the Twins, who have lost 14 of their last 17.
Hernandez's brilliance came as no surprise. The Venezuelan has long been one of baseball's best pitchers, and he's on a roll these days even by his sterling standards. He threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15 and has allowed one earned run or fewer 16 times this season.
To watch Hendriks, a 23-year-old Aussie who hasn't picked up a win in 14 career starts and has been sent back down to Triple-A twice this season, match King Felix pitch for pitch through seven innings was something entirely unexpected. He needed just 68 pitches to get through six innings against the free-swinging Mariners before Thames got him in the eighth.
Gutierrez singled in the first inning, a welcome sight for a Mariners offense that has missed his right-handed bat in the lineup and his glove in center field. But the mental part of his recovery from the concussion he suffered when he was hit on the ear by a pickoff attempt against Boston is ongoing.
When Hendriks tried to pick him off two pitches later, Gutierrez gingerly scurried back to first base, protecting his head with his right hand. Later in the sixth, Hendriks buzzed him with a pitch up and in that appeared to hit Gutierrez on the hand, and the outfielder wasn't happy as he stomped off to first base.
He took an extra-base hit away from Trevor Plouffe in the third, ranging to the wall in left-center and leaping to grab it as Plouffe just shook his head. Hernandez grinned as he watched his center fielder haul it in, hinting that another magical night could be in the offing.
Not exactly perfect, he walked Josh Willingham in the second inning, but was carving up the Twins and kept a no-hitter going until Mauer singled with two outs in the fourth inning. The Twins had two on in the fifth and Morneau led off the seventh with a triple before Hernandez steeled himself and got Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe and Jamey Carroll to ground out and keep Minnesota scoreless.
Thames led off the eighth inning with a homer that barely reached the flower bed beyond the left field wall, and that proved to be all Hernandez needed.
NOTES: It's the second nine-decision win streak of Hernandez's career. The only other Mariners pitcher to have two win streaks of at least nine decisions is Randy Johnson. ... Mauer passed Earl Battey for the most games caught by a Twins player, catching his 832nd on Monday night. "It's a pretty neat little deal," Mauer said. ... LHP Scott Diamond (10-5, 3.04) will start on Tuesday for the Twins against RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3, 3.64). Diamond is appealing a six-game suspension handed down after he was ejected from his last start for throwing behind Texas OF Josh Hamilton. Iwakuma is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his last seven starts.