The Mariners' ace had 12 strikeouts in Seattle's 7-0 win against Texas at Safeco Field.
What looked like a great pitching matchup on paper between Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish turned out to be a one-sided affair — again.
Hernandez struck out 12, all swinging, in a three-hit shutout as the Mariners dominated the Texas Rangers, 7-0, Saturday at Safeco Field.
Hernandez and Darvish also faced each other at Safeco on May 21. In that meeting, Hernandez allowed one run in eight innings while Darvish allowed four earned runs in four innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 victory. Hernandez was every bit as good Saturday.
“He was outstanding,” manager Eric Wedge said of Hernandez, who is now tied for the fifth-most complete-game shutouts in team history with six.
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“It’s as good as I’ve seen him. I’ve said that a few times but that means a lot because it shows you how special he was.”
King Felix got off to a great start against a potent Rangers lineup, facing the minimum amount of batters through four innings. He allowed one hit, to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, in the third, but got a little help from the infield later in the inning. Second baseman Dustin Ackley flipped a ground ball from Leonys Martin to shortstop Brendan Ryan to start the inning-ending double play.
“That was a great play there,” Hernandez said. “That was great defense. With good defense and good pitching, we win the game.”
Hernandez kept it going in the fifth with three strikeouts, including one at the expense of third baseman Adrian Beltre. He had a little pep in his step after the at-bat, after which Hernandez said Beltre tipped his cap.
“He wanted a fastball, so I threw a fastball,” Hernandez said.
King’s Court didn’t get much of a break from holding up signs and chanting “K” later in the game, either. In the seventh, Hernandez struck out Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Add in Beltre’s night and the Rangers’ 3-4-5 hitters finished a combined 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts against Hernandez.
“Last year it sucked because I didn’t win a game against those guys,” said Hernandez, who is 2-0 against Texas this season. “I was behind in the count last year, and today I was throwing a lot of strikes and I was mixing with my breaking balls. That’s the key: throw strikes.”
Hernandez was backed up by a Mariners’ lineup that was able to plate four runs off Darvish in the first with just two hits. Darvish struggled with his command as he faced the entire lineup in the inning.
Catcher John Jaso started the scoring on a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded and no outs. Outfielder Michael Saunders reached first on the next at-bat on an error by first baseman Michael Young for a second consecutive game, which scored Ichiro. Third baseman Kyle Seager drove in two more runs on a single to left field.
It’s the second time the Mariners have rocked Darvish for four runs in the first inning this season. The other time was in Darvish’s major-league debut on April 9.
“We’ve been able to get ahead of him and I think that’s a big part,” Jaso said. “We’ve gotten a couple walks here and there, and that’s been big for us and get some hits in big situations.”
Ackley and Jaso added to the lead in the fourth and fifth innings. Ackley scored Seager from first on an RBI double to center field in the fourth. Jaso connected on his fourth home run this season on the first pitch from Darvish in the fifth.
“(Hernandez) only needed one run, I think everyone knew that,” Ackley said. “It’s nice to put all those runs up and give him a little cushion. When he’s relaxed out there, he’s almost impossible.”
Although the Mariners have the worst on-base percentage in the league, every Seattle hitter reached base Saturday.
Darvish allowed seven runs on eight hits in 6-2/3 innings. He also walked four and struck out four. Darvish is 1-2 against the Mariners in three starts with a 9.00 earned-run average.
“We had a lot of good (at-bats) tonight and we a lot of hard outs too,” Wedge said. “For the most part, the guys were getting in a better hitting position.”