After Thursday’s sloppy game, the Mariners had the right person to turn to. Felix Hernandez is now 9-2 after a Mariners’ loss.
“That’s an ace. That’s an All-Star. We talked last night how much our starting pitching sets the tone of a ballgame,” Don Wakamatsu said. “The credit to him is how deep he pitches in a ballgame, especially a game where you get quite a few run lead, and some delays in the game where it’s not always easy to pitch. For him to go deep, eighth inning,and turn it over to (David) Aardsma, it gives us a confidence level that really helps this club.”
Hernandez gave up two runs in this eight innings, striking out eight, walking one, giving up five hits. He threw 112 pitches. Hernandez is now 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his last 10 starts since the now-famous calling out by Wakamatsu.
Aardsma worked a 1-2-3 ninth, with a strikeout.
“Aardsma looked great,” Wakamatsu said. “You’re looking for signs after the break of how guys react, and he came in and looked real sharp.”
Much of the post-game praise, however, went to Ronny Cedeno, who had a pair of two-out singles and has raised his average to .180. It doesn’t sound like much, but considering Cedeno was hitting . 117 on June 27, it’s better than the alternative.
“What he’s done over the last couple of weeks has really helped this ballclub both offensively and defensively,” Wakamatsu said. “For him to get two two-out RBIs was obviously special. We talked about timely pitching and being able to give run support to our starting pitching, and we did that tonight. It’s another step in the right direction.”
Wakamatsu talked about balancing his desire to pitch Hernandez deep into games with the necessity to not overwork him.
“It’s tough, because you want to keep him out there as a manager, but you also want to be able to protect him sometimes. The double play (in the eighth, after the first two batters reached base) — Jack Hannahan made the nice play, which really helped. Sean White was up throwing. It was nice for Felix. He never wants me to take the ball out of his hands. I think in a situation where you have a four-run lead, you want to have one inning to turn over, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Hernandez said, “I was a little wild. My fastball wasn’t in command, but after the first three innings I settled down and it was a good game. It was important for us after the loss to go out there do my job – give the opportunity for the team to win the game. They scored a couple runs and I was like, ‘All right, guys. Let’s go.
“In the eighth I was a little bit wild, maybe a little fatigued. I wanted to throw the ninth anyway.”
Cedeno considers Hernandez one of his best friends on the team — they grew up near each other in Venezuela — and Hernandez was thrilled for Cedeno’s improving offense.
“It’s good to see. He’s been really struggling, but he’s a great player. At shortstop he’s unbelievable. He gets two hits, I’m happy for him. I’m happy for everybody.The way he’s hitting now, he just looks better. He’s been hitting the ball hard and he’s feeling better now.
“I just tell him to just relax, relax and don’t put pressure on yourself. Just act like you do at shortstop. When you’re at shortstop you feel good, but when you go to homeplate just relax your mind and go out and hit.”
I asked Hernandez about his hip swivel, a new element in his pitching motion his last few starts. He just laughed and didn’t seem to want to elaborate.
“Wak tell me, did you talk to Luis Tiant? I said no.”
Here’s what Cedeno had to say: “I’m feeling comfortable. I’m working hard every day with AC (Alan Cockrell), the hitting coach. I think it’s timing. I’m trying to get my timing back. When you see more pitches, you get your timing back. Now I feel better. When you play every day, you feel more comfortable. You feel relaxed. When the manager makes the lineup, you see your name in there, that makes you feel great. It helps a lot.”
I asked Cedeno what was his reaction to the Yuniesky Betancourt trade, which established him as the every-day shortstop — unless they acquire someone else, of course.
“I didn’t have any reaction, because he’s a great guy,” he said. “It’s business. I don’t have control over that. I think it’s good for him. When you get traded, you have to take the positive. When I got traded here, I got more chance to play here.”