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SEA@MIN: Hendriks goes the distance in tough loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- Win No. 1 still continues to elude Liam Hendriks.

The 23-year-old turned in the best start of his young career on Monday, but unfortunately for him, he did so while facing arguably baseball's best pitcher. As a result, Hendriks is still seeking his first Major League victory.

Hendriks made one more mistake than Seattle's Felix Hernandez, but that was enough to cost the Twins a 1-0 loss to the Mariners at Target Field. The loss was Minnesota's sixth consecutive against Seattle.

Hendriks actually gave up fewer hits than Hernandez -- three compared to five -- but one proved to be the difference. The only run he allowed came on a leadoff home run by Eric Thames in the eighth inning.

"As advertised, Felix was very good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had some chances, missed our opportunities. Our kid -- one pitch, and it wasn't a bad pitch, I didn't think. The guy put it right over the top of the fence, and that's the ballgame."

Minnesota's right-hander struck out a career-high six to notch his first complete game in his 14th Major League start. Hendriks entered the night with an 0-6 record and a 7.06 ERA in nine starts this season.

Hendriks became the first Twins starter to lose a complete game since Carl Pavano against Cleveland on Sept. 20, 2010. But despite the result, Hendriks couldn't have asked for much better from himself.

"It's huge," he said. "I know I can go out there and compete. I think I can get better from this. I wasn't even throwing as hard as I can. I mean, I was giving it all I got. But it's one of those things. So I'll go out there again and keep doing this and putting zeros on the board."

The Twins were waiting for a showing like this from Hendriks, who found plenty of success for Triple-A Rochester this season. He went 9-3 with a 2.20 ERA in two stints with the Red Wings.

But he hadn't been able to replicate that level of performance at the Major League level -- until Monday.

"He wasn't walking around the mound, searching," Gardenhire said. "He was getting the ball, getting back on the mound, and using all of his pitches and throwing strikes and making them swing the bat. That's what we've been waiting for. He's done it in his [Minor League] career. Now he's got to do it up here consistently."

Hernandez responded by throwing his fifth shutout since June 28 to extend his winning streak to nine games. The Mariners ace has surrendered only a single earned run over his last 27 2/3 innings.

"He had his changeup working," said Ben Revere, one of four Twins to go hitless against Hernandez on Monday. "The fastball was moving real late. You think it's right there, and then it just leaves the strike zone. Curveball, slider, throwing them for strikes or getting us to chase in the dirt. He was pitching pretty good. His stuff was working tonight."

Minnesota was largely baffled by Hernandez until Justin Morneau ripped his second triple of the season off the right-field wall to lead off the seventh, creating a golden opportunity for the Twins to take control. But Minnesota failed to take advantage.

Seattle shifted its infield in and Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe followed with hard-hit groundouts that didn't give Morneau a chance to score, and Jamey Carroll grounded out to end the inning.

Both pitchers' outings were backed by incredible defensive plays from their teammates. Franklin Gutierrez robbed Plouffe of what would have surely been an extra-base hit in the third inning, leaping against the left-center field fence to snag Plouffe's deep drive.

Pedro Florimon made a diving stop and flip to Carroll at second to help end the sixth with a double play. Denard Span also threw out Franklin Gutierrez at third to close the top of the ninth when Gutierrez tried to tag up from second on Jesus Montero's flyout.

Hendriks only allowed singles to Gutierrez and John Jaso before allowing the home run.

"I could hear how loud it was and I got all of it," Thames said. "But I didn't know about the height. But once I heard the clank of the fence and the umpire, I was pretty fired up about that. It was a good feeling, especially knowing it gave Felix a lead. Once he has a lead, he's light's-out."

The rotation sets up for Hendriks to get his next crack at his first big league victory on Sept. 1 in Kansas City. But his teammates might be even more anxious for that first win.

"I'm so upset," Revere said. "We're trying to get him his first MLB victory. It seems like he can't catch a break sometimes. He's going to eventually get it, definitely before the season ends.

"It's just tough heartbreak. But that's how the game goes."

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