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Felix fans a dozen in a three-hit shutout

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez didn't get to pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game, but the Mariners ace created his own Midsummer Classic with a three-hit shutout in a 7-0 victory over the Rangers' star-studded lineup Saturday night at Safeco Field.

Hernandez handled a Texas team that was starting six players who had been All-Stars at some point in their career, outdueling fellow AL All-Star Yu Darvish in the process as he threw his second complete game of the season while striking out 12 with no walks.

Hernandez, who turned in his fourth 10-plus-strikeout performance of the year and 20th of his career, whiffed Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz three times apiece and handed the American League's top scoring team just its second shutout of the season.

"Today was unbelievable," said Hernandez. "I was pounding the strike zone, I was throwing pitches in every count. If you get ahead against those guys, you're doing a good job because they have a pretty good lineup."

Hernandez's sixth career shutout ties him with Jamie Moyer and Jim Beattie for the fifth most in Mariners history.

"He's pretty special," said Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager. "You see great hitters taking terrible swings. Anytime you get a guy doing that kind of thing, you know his stuff is the real deal."

It was the seventh time this season Hernandez has gone at least eight innings while allowing one run or fewer. The next closest pitcher in the Majors in that situation is R.A. Dickey of the Mets with five.

Hernandez threw a five-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against Boston on June 28, but was even more dominant this outing as his fastball velocity and movement continued to increase.

"Felix was as good as I've seen him," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "I've said that a few times lately, but that means a lot because it just shows you how special he was tonight. I thought that was maybe the best fastball we've seen him have this year."

Hernandez added on to his powerful midseason run as he improved to 7-5 with a 2.92 ERA. Over his past six starts, the 26-year-old is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA (seven runs in 45 innings) with 56 strikeouts and six walks.

"It's more fun being back there than hitting against him, I'm sure," John Jaso said after catching Hernandez's masterpiece. "His fastball was just moving all over the place. I thought he could have just lived with his fastball, making it do what it was doing. He was cutting it, running it, it was just nasty. But he threw all his pitches well."

Lack of run support had left Hernandez with no-decisions in three of his five previous starts, but the Mariners got to Darvish early and then kept adding on as they evened their record against the AL West leaders at 6-6 this season.

The Mariners jumped on Darvish's control problems to put up four runs in the first inning. Seager's two-run single with the bases loaded was the big blow as Seattle took advantage of two walks, a hit batter and an error on first baseman Michael Young.

Darvish, who hadn't pitched since July 1, needed 33 pitches to get through the first frame. He straightened things up well enough to get through 6 1/3 innings, but the rookie allowed seven runs on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

"It seemed like he was falling behind a lot, walking some guys and then had to throw one over the plate," said second baseman Dustin Ackley. "There've been times where we've missed a lot of those pitches and not scored those runs, but today we didn't miss them."

The Japanese right-hander has struggled in three starts against Seattle with a 1-2 record and 9.00 ERA, having surrendered 16 runs in 16 innings with 14 walks and 14 strikeouts.

"Giving up a four-spot in the first inning against a very good pitcher, that's tough," Darvish said. "All of a sudden, I put our offense in a tough situation."

Ichiro Suzuki, who never faced his countryman in an official game before this year, went 1-for-4 against Darvish and is now 6-for-11 against him.

Ackley ripped an RBI double off the base of the center-field wall in the fourth and Jaso added a solo home run to left-center in the fifth as the Mariners built a 6-0 lead.

Michael Saunders made it 7-0 with an RBI double in the seventh before the Mariners chased Darvish, with reliever Michael Kirkman getting out of a bases-loaded jam with one out to escape further damage.

Jaso finished 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs as he raised his team-leading batting average to .281. The catcher said he thought the Mariners had a good approach against Darvish, making him throw his fastball when he struggled with his off-speed offerings.

But the story of this night was Hernandez, to the delight of a crowd of 29,951 that included the usual boisterous King's Court rooting section in left field.

"The biggest thing with the movement on his fastball was how late it was," said Jaso. "He had pitches that looked like they were going to hit the plate, then all the sudden they were somewhere else. It was tough enough just catching it. I couldn't imagine hitting him."

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