SEATTLE — Almost the moment Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon made the announcement last week, there was plenty of debate about the decision to move Felix Hernandez’s scheduled start back a day to Friday to face the Oakland A’s.
Some liked it, some loathed it and others couldn’t understand the thinking behind it.
In the days leading up to it, the debate became a little more heated with the Mariners dropping three of four games against the Minnesota Twins.
An inning into the start Friday, it looked like the doubters would have their day. Hernandez had given up two runs before the Mariners had even stepped to the plate and a crowd of 32,971, including nine sections of the King’s Court, was muted in stunned disappointment.
But those were the only runs Hernandez would allow and the Mariners’ offense provided just enough run support for a 3-2 victory, ending the debate about the decision.
Hernandez pitched eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and two walks to improve to 11-2 on the season and he now has a 2.12 ERA. It was his 11th consecutive start of at least seven innings pitched and allowing two runs or less. That’s the longest streak in baseball since Gaylord Perry in 1974.
If that doesn’t qualify him to start the All-Star Game in Minneapolis on Tuesday, it’s difficult to imagine a better candidate.
It wasn’t an auspicious beginning to his start. The second hitter he faced — Steven Vogt — crushed a 0-2 changeup into the seats for a solo homer — his fourth of the season. Josh Donaldson followed with a single and later scored on a two-out ground ball from Jed Lowrie that snuck through the infield.
But that was it. Hernandez never allowed another A’s player to cross home plate. Hernandez allowed just three more hits over the next seven innings.
And his teammates eventually gave him a lead.
Logan Morrison led off the second inning with a solo homer to deep right-center on a 3-2 fastball to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Seattle tied the game an inning later, manufacturing a run as Brad Miller led off the inning with a hustling double to left-center. Mike Zunino moved Miller to third with a ground ball to second base. Endy Chavez scored Miller with a sacrifice fly to center field.
The Mariners took the lead with a rare hit with a runner in scoring position. James Jones doubled to left with two outs in the sixth and Robinson Cano scored him with a bloop double that landed right on the left-field line.
Cano’s double was just the Mariners’ second hit in 34 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
The victory was anything but easy. Fernando Rodney, who had been racking up drama-free saves of late, made the ninth inning a bit of an adventure. He put the tying run on base with one out, walking Derek Norris and a wild pitch put him in scoring position. Norris moved to third on Yoenis Cespedes’ fly ball to right field. With two outs and the tying run just 90 feet away, Rodney rung up Nick Punto on a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner to end the game.