In the face of history, the Mariners offense continued a troubling trend of putridity as Felix Hernandez continued his machine-like consistency on the mound. A pair of fifth-inning runs against Hernandez were all the Indians and Corey Kluber needed to beat the Mariners 2-0 at Progressive Field.
A crowd of 14,863 watched as Hernandez made major league history after completing his 14th consecutive start of seven or more innings while yielding two or fewer runs. Despite that immortal streak, Hernandez has won only half those starts while losing two, including Wednesday.
In the previous matchup with the Indians June 29, Hernandez (11-3, 2.01 ERA) allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings to pick up his 10th win. Wednesday, he was even sharper over the first four innings, retiring the first 12 batters.
The difference was Kluber.
The Indians’ right-hander has been nearly as good as Hernandez this season, albeit far more quietly. Kluber (11-6, 2.61 ERA) likewise represented the Indians atop many American League pitching categories. Kluber’s 149.1 innings ranked third, 162 strikeouts were fourth and his 2.77 ERA placed him eighth among qualified AL pitchers entering the game. The third-year pro has been pretty good.
He was fantastic Wednesday in a complete-game, 85-pitch shutout that earned many marks for efficiency. Over nine innings, Kluber allowed three hits and did not walk a batter while striking out eight. The 85 total pitches were the fewest of any complete-game effort in the major leagues this season, topping the 88 by Miami’s Henderson Alvarez. It was only the seventh such shutout in MLB since 2001 (85 or fewer pitches).
Kluber controlled the Mariners with pin-point command of a mid-90’s fastball and “slurve” breaking ball. At a point in the third, Kluber had thrown four balls in nearly 30 pitches. He had three two-ball counts.
Seattle (55-52) generated small threats in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, Robinson Cano advanced to second with two outs after Cleveland right fielder David Murphy bobbled his line drive. Cano was stranded when Kendrys Morales grounded out on the next pitch.
In the fifth, Logan Morrison singled up the middle with one out, but Kluber responded by getting Mike Zunino to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. That was it. The Mariners had no more baserunners.
Hernandez wasn’t as stingy against the Indians as was June 29, though he was again good enough to separate himself from New York Mets’ legend Tom Seaver. Hernandez had excellent command of all five pitches, primarily using his curveball, change and fastball.
A rare walk unlocked the cage that Hernandez placed on the Cleveland offense.
Carlos Santana opened a productive fifth by working the 30th walk Hernandez has allowed this season. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled into the right-center gap to put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Three batters later with the bases loaded and one out, Yan Gomes delivered with a two-run double inside the first-base line. Hernandez would escape further damage.
The King held firm after that, stranding a Cleveland base-runner in each of the sixth and seventh innings to complete his historic run, but what had been done was plenty for Kluber and the Indians.
LHP James Paxton threw a 45-pitch bullpen session prior to Wednesday’s game and felt strong. Manager Lloyd McClendon said Paxton starting Saturday in Baltimore was a “strong possibility.” . . . Morales went hitless again, finishing 0-for-3 and is now 1-for-18 since returning to Seattle . . . The Mariners fell to 10-4 over Hernandez’s record 14-start run . . . After going 0-for-3, James Jones has three hits in his last 39 at-bats for an .076 average.