This wasn’t the easiest seven-inning victory Felix Hernandez has ever managed for the Mariners. Hernandez managed to go seven frames in a 7-2 win over the Texas Rangers, but for a while, it looked like he might have trouble surviving the first few.
Hernandez walked three batters in the first two innings, allowing five baserunners total. But the Rangers, hamstrung at times by questionable baserunning, couldn’t make him pay.
We’ve seen the Mariners victimized by a failure to knock pitchers out early and Hernandez turned the tables in Seattle’s favor this time.
That first inning baserunning gamble by Omar Vizquel, who tested Ichiro’s arm on a flyout to right field, resulted in a double-play that got Hernnadez out of the first inning. Hernandez then ran the count full on Vizquel with the bases juiced in the second, but got him to fly out.
Vizquel seemed to be everywhere when there was something happening for the Rangers at the plate tonight.
The Rangers had one on with none out in the fifth inning when Vizquel ripped one up the first base line — right into the glove of Russell Branyan, who stepped on first for the double-play. In the seventh, with two on and none out, Vizquel struck out on a ball in the dirt that rolled away from catcher Rob Johnson.
Elvis Andrus started running towards second, not realizing Marlon Byrd had held his ground there. That, too, became a double play.
Hernandez had his struggles, as we mentioned. But he persevered. He only struck out two batters, but limited the Rangers to only one home run — that 458-foot solo rocket by Nelson Cruz in the fourth.
They aren’t all gems. Ask Jarrod Washburn. But Hernandez improves to 12-4, one win behind Josh Beckett for the league lead. His ERA is still top-five, so he’s positioning himself nicely for a run at the Cy Young Award if Zack Greinke ever gets beat up on a few games in a row.
p.s. The Mariners really should try to sign this guy long-term.
p.p.s. They have tried.