Nelson Cruz homered and Felix Hernandez dominated. It’s starting to look the way the Mariners hoped when the season began. Seattle (7-9) won its second in a row and its fourth in six games as Hernandez threw a complete game to beat the Twins 2-0 (box score). It was an uptick for the Mariners after news that RHP Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day disabled list. GM Jack Zduriencik called the move “a precaution.”
Hernandez rarely disappoints, and he found a way to add some juice to the electrified fans in King’s Court with three strikeouts on 14 pitches to open the game. In striking out the side, Hernandez set the tone for another outstanding performance.
The Mariners had a rested bullpen for the first time in awhile. Hernandez made the Twins look silly at times during a complete-game performance that was nothing short of dominant. The only disappointment came when Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe ended a bid for perfection with a two-out single in the fifth. That came after 14 consecutive outs to start, during which Hernandez looked so in the zone that a no-hitter seemed possible. He settled for his first complete game, and his first shutout, since Aug. 27, 2012, when Hernandez beat the Twins 1-0.
Nelson Cruz was back to his old tricks. What the heck took him so long? He hit his first home run in five days. Cruz has been in such a funk that his pace of 108 home runs this season has fallen into double digits. 1B Logan Morrison did his best Cruz impersonation with a solo shot in the fifth, his first, but the Mariners couldn’t do much else against Minnesota starter Phil Hughes. The low point was watching C Mike Zunino strike out on three pitches in the seventh – his 22nd strikeout in 47 at-bats.
“It’s been awhile, so it feels really good.” – Felix Hernandez, on his complete game.
According to Zduriencik, Iwakuma’s right shoulder was feeling fatigued after his Monday start and again after a Friday bullpen session. Iwakuma (0-1, 6.61 ERA) hasn’t looked right this season, and the DL move could give him time to get right . . . It’s likely LHP Roenis Elias will be back for a Sunday start to fill in for Iwakuma. Elias looked like a phenom as a rookie early last season, but faded down the stretch. This spring, he couldn’t beat out Taijuan Walker for a roster spot. LHP Lucas Luetge is also back in Seattle, although his stay might be short with the Elias promotion likely to come Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
It’s a safe bet that LHP James Paxton has been champing at the bit to get back on the mound after a rough week. First, he had a miserable third inning in Sunday’s 11-10 win over Texas. Then he saw his ERA rise from 5.40 to 8.40 without throwing a single pitch. An MLB scoring decision changed a Sunday error to a hit. Paxton (0-1) will throw again Saturday night, when he takes on the Twins’ RHP Trevor May (1-1, 4.76).