Felix was back to being Felix. Couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only was Hernandez coming off a minor quad injury that ended his previous start prematurely, but he took the mound Saturday night for an underachieving Mariners team that was beginning to look all too familiar for longtime Seattle fans. Hernandez’s two-hit, 12-strikeout performance and a 3-1 win over Texas ended a four-game losing streak.
For the past two weeks, C Mike Zunino has been treating oncoming baseballs like Russell Wilson in a red practice jersey. But Zunino finally made contact and may have splashed cold water on two slumps – his own, and that of the Mariners – when he tagged the first pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning into the upper deck in left field. The solo homer not only gave Seattle a 2-1 lead, but it provided something from the least likely (.120 average entering the game) outlet.
We’ve all grown to know what to expect out of Hernandez. Fernando Rodney? Different story. The unpredictable closer never left a doubt in the ninth inning, going 1-2-3 in his most dominant performance of the season. It served as the perfect bookend to Hernandez.
The Mariners ran themselves out of the first three innings, but the hits kept coming. Seattle piled up 11. The contributions of Zunino and SS Brad Miller (2 for 4 with an RBI) had to be the most encouraging. The Cano and Cruz show (3 for 8; and 7 of 16 for the series) continues. But Seattle’s inability to capitalize on opportunities (1 for 9 with runners in scoring position; three baserunners thrown out in the first three innings) is becoming a trend.
Manager Lloyd McClendon on Rodney: “He was pretty focused, pretty determined tonight — for a lot of reasons. He’s been beat down pretty good.”
And 3B coach Rich Donnelly, who sent Austin Jackson home in the first, when he was thrown out: “Show me a third base coach that never gets a guy thrown out at the plate, and I’ll show you a bad third-base coach. Rich has to be aggressive in that situation.”
The Rangers’ lineup included former Mariner Carlos Peguero in right field. That would be only mildly significant on most nights, but it was of utmost interest Saturday because Felix was on the mound. In June, Peguero’s wife, Maria, was sentenced to a year and a day in jail after stealing the credit-card information of Hernandez’s wife, Sandra, and going on an online shopping spree that racked up $191,000. The somewhat awkward first plate appearance resulted in a free pass for Peguero, who didn’t see any brush-back pitches but drew a seven-pitch walk.
The series finishes Sunday with a 1 p.m. game at Safeco Field. LHPs James Paxton (0-1, 5.11 ERA) of the Mariners and Ross Detwiler (0-2, 9.00) of the Rangers will be on the mound. The good news for Seattle fans is that the Mariners are 3-0 in afternoon games. Anyone out there in favor of removing the lights at Safeco Field?