Hernandez displays stopper quality as Mariners top Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- With their losing streak at four games, the Seattle Mariners got some good news Sunday. King Felix was on the mound. The ace of their staff and one of the best in the game, right-hander Felix Hernandez was the stopper the Mariners ...
MINNEAPOLIS - With their losing streak at four games, the Seattle Mariners got some good news Sunday.
King Felix was on the mound.
The ace of their staff and one of the best in the game, right-hander Felix Hernandez was the stopper the Mariners needed Sunday, pitching eight strong innings in helping Seattle to a 6-2 win against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
After losing the final two games of a series against the Tampa Bay Rays last week, the Mariners dropped the first two against the Twins in Minnesota, but rebounded thanks to the guy on the mound and some rare - at least of late - timely hitting.
Hernandez ran into his only trouble of the day in the bottom of the third. After a walk and an infield single, the Twins had two on and nobody out. But Hernandez responded by striking out Minnesota best two hitters, second baseman Brian Dozier and first baseman Joe Mauer. But a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and designated hitter Trevor Plouffe drove them both in with a single to center.
“I was a little (upset),” Hernandez said. “I like seeing those zeroes up on the scoreboard. After that, I made better pitches.”
After that, Hernandez was nearly unhittable. He allowed three singles over his final five innings of work and erased two of them with double plays by the next hitter. He worked eight innings, allowing only the two runs while walking one and scattering seven hits, all singles. He struck out five and improved to 5-1 on the year.
“It’s always a confidence builder coming to the park knowing he’s pitching,” Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders said. “Typically, we know we don’t have to put up too many runs to come out with a ‘W.’ He’s arguably the best pitcher in the game and he’s shown it year in and year out.”
Down 2-0 in the middle innings, Seattle’s offense came alive. Averaging less than two runs per game over their losing streak, second baseman Robinson Cano led the way with four hits, scoring their first run in the fourth inning on an RBI single by third baseman Kyle Seager.
An RBI triple by Saunders tied the game in the fifth before Cano doubled in Saunders to give the Mariners their first lead of the day. Cano also scored the final run of the game in the ninth, reaching base with a single and coming around to score on a wild pitch.
“We had much better at-bats with runners in scoring position,” Seattle skipper Lloyd McClendon said. “Actually, hit the ball hard a couple of times with scoring position and didn’t get anything to show for it. Our guys had a better plan, better ideas of what they were going to do up there. That’s all we ask.”
Saunders also had a sacrifice fly in the sixth and first baseman Justin Smoak had an RBI double in the seventh inning.
“Not the results we were looking for,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We missed some plays that ended up costing us. A sloppy game out there today.”
Twins starter Ricky Nolasco took the loss, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks over five innings to drop to 2-4 this season. After being roughed up in four of his first five starts with the Twins, Nolasco had pitched quality starts in each of his last three outings entering Sunday.
“We get a couple of runs on Felix and couldn’t stop them,” Gardenhire said. “Nolasco kind of labored through it. Missing plays and walking too many, I don’t know how many of the walks came around to score, but it’s too many.”
Notes: Mariners DH Corey Hart left the game in the top of the fourth inning with an left hamstring strain after he successfully stole second base. He will be re-evaluated Monday. ... Mariners 2B Robinson Cano reached base four times Sunday and has now reached in 26 straight games, tied for his career high he set in 2012. ... Twins RHP Ricky Nolasco failed to earn a quality start for the first time in four starts. ... After the game, the Twins optioned RHP Michael Tonkin to Triple-A Rochester and recalled C/OF Chris Herrmann from Rochester. ... Seattle will continue its five-game road trip Tuesday in Texas, sending RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0, 1.59 ERA) to the mound. Minnesota starts a five-game trip of its own Tuesday in San Diego with former Padres RHP Kevin Correia on the bump (1-5, 6.80 ERA).