That’s a pretty good pictorial summation of tonight’s game in this duo of Associated Press photos by Elaine Thompson: Ken Griffey Jr.’s three-run homer in the fifth, and Griffey getting a hug from Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez wasn’t at the absolute top of his game — he said he was “too strong,” leading to command issues — but it’s a measure of how dominant he has become that he limited a red-hot Oakland team to two runs in 7 2/3 innings despite four walks, two hit batters and two wild pitches.
Manager Don Wakamatsu acknowledged that he gave Hernandez a longer rope than usual with a mind toward his Cy Young pursuit.
“I think anybody would, but the fact is, we’ve been able to manage his pitch count to the point he’s pretty strong at this time of year,” he said. “There have been a lot of games we’ve kept him right around 100 (pitches) trying to get him 33, 34 starts.”
“He’s done it all year,” Wakamatsu added. “He starts out getting his pitch count up; all of sudden, you look up and he’s in the seventh or eighth inning. He never gives up, he battles, and he seems to be able to manage any kind of trouble he gets into. That’s a credit to him.”
Hernandez said he was able to relax after Griffey’s homer gave him a nice cushion in the fifth.
“That made me happy,” said Hernandez. “I said, I’ve got to settle down now and throw strikes.’ I was feeling too strong today.
“It’s always majestic,” Wakamatsu said of Griffey’s 17th homer of the season. “Cahill’s an awfully tough kid. He’s going to be special, and Junior steps in there and takes that swing, He doesn’t show age with that swing. It’s a beautiful swing no matter how you look at it.”
Here’s what Wakamatsu said about winning No. 81, assuring the Mariners of a winning season.
“The biggest thing for us, we went through a lot this year with injuries.To be able to sit here at 81 is a stepping stone. By no means is it what we’re looking to do here. But under the circumstances, I’m awfully proud.”
Hernandez noted the turnaround in atmosphere.
“It’s way different, in the clubhouse, on the field,” he said. “Last year we were kind of quiet. This year, we have fun.”