CURTIS CRABTREE, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has run out of superlatives to describe Felix Hernandez.
The Mariners ace allowed just one hit over eight innings while striking out nine, and Robinson Cano backed him with a two-run homer as Seattle earned a 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
“Felix is great. I don’t have the adjectives to explain it anymore. It’s just unbelievable,” McClendon said.
Hernandez allowed just Lonnie Chisenhall’s single in the fifth inning and walked three in picking up his 10th victory of the season. It was Hernandez’s ninth consecutive start where he has pitched at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. During that stretch he is 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA. He struck out 77 while walking only 10. His 2.10 ERA is now tied with Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees for best in the American League.
“I think they were sitting on my changeup with two strikes. We struck out a lot of people with the fastball,” Hernandez said. “The command of the fastball was really good. Mixed it up with my breaking ball for a strike and changeup was good, too.”
It’s the first one-hitter thrown by the Mariners since Hernandez and Steve Delabar combined to one-hit the Minnesota Twins on May 5, 2012. It was the first time Cleveland had been held to just one hit since April 12, 2011, against the Los Angeles Angels.
“He threw his breaking ball and his changeup early in the count and was able to throw that fastball late,” Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said. “It’s just tough when you’ve got four pitches and guys have to respect it, you’re not always going to pick right. He’s doing a good job of mixing up and then making the pitch, too.”
Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 23rd save.
The Mariners failed to take advantage early after loading the bases in the first inning against Cleveland starter T.J. House. After a leadoff single from Willie Bloomquist, Cano reached on an error by first baseman Nick Swisher while attempting to complete a double play. Kyle Seager singled and Zunino walked to load the bases, but House struck out Logan Morrison to get out of the jam.
Hernandez didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings, with a walk to Michael Brantley giving Cleveland its only baserunner.
House (0-2) settled in as well, retiring 13 of the next 14 batters he faced to keep the game scoreless into the fifth inning.
Chisenhall led off the fifth with a chopper back through the middle of the infield for Cleveland’s only hit. Carlos Santana would be the only runner Hernandez allowed to reach second base. Santana walked and advanced on a fielder’s choice in the sixth.
“If (Cano) makes a spectacular play right there, it’s a no-hitter against us,” Chisenhall said. “Fortunately, he didn’t. We weren’t able to get anything going.”
Michael Saunders led off the sixth with a chopper that House fielded, but he threw wide of first base up the right field line and Saunders advanced to third on the error. Cano then snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a two-run shot to right that gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
“I was looking for a pitch that I can at least hit out of the infield,” Cano said. “Especially in that situation, no outs, that’s what you want. Especially with (Hernandez) on the mound you just want to be able to do your job, especially when you’ve got men in scoring position.”
Cano singled to lead off the eighth and scored on a single from Zunino to give the Mariners an insurance run.
NOTES: Hernandez surpassed Bob Feller (1,836) for the sixth-most strikeouts in a career before a player’s 29th birthday. Hernandez’s nine strikeouts Sunday gives him 1,840 for his career. … Cleveland pitchers had their streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings snapped on Cano’s homer in the sixth inning. They had held Seattle scoreless since the eighth inning of Friday night’s game. … The Mariners optioned OF Stefen Romero to Triple-A Tacoma after the game to open a roster spot. … Seattle is expected to call up RHP Taijuan Walker to make his season debut and start Monday’s game against in Houston against the Astros. He will face off against Houston RHP Collin McHugh (4-6, 2.86 ERA).
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