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08/25/07 1:12 AM ET
Hernandez leads Mariners over Rangers
Young righty gives up three hits over six innings before tiring
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The steamy Texas heat took its toll on right-hander Felix Hernandez on Friday night, but it was no sweat most of the way as he resembled the pitcher that nearly no-hit the Red Sox in his second start of the season. King Felix took a one-hitter into the fifth inning against the Rangers and had retired 14 batters in a row until a check-swing single made him pitch from the stretch for the first time since the first inning. An ensuing line-drive home run erased the two-run lead he had been nursing since the second inning, but, as usual, the Mariners found a way to shrug that off and claim another victory on their magic carpet ride. Right fielder Jose Guillen put the Mariners ahead twice, hitting a home run in the first inning and then driving in the eventual winning run with a single in the seventh inning, leading the Mariners to a 4-2 victory in front of 32,716 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Seattle (73-53) moved 20 games above .500 for the first time this season and remained one game behind the Angels in the American League West. It's the first time since the end of the 2003 season -- the last time they were remotely close to being in a pennant race -- that the Mariners were this far over the break-even mark. There is no sign that they are ready to wilt under the heat of a pennant race. But those 90-something degree temperatures deep in the heart of Texas are something else. "The only bad thing was the weather, it was killing me," said Hernandez, who turned the game -- and a one-run lead -- over to the bullpen after six innings. "I wanted to go to the seventh. I was tired." And so he called it a night after six innings. "Felix did a great job," manager John McLaren said. "He got tired, and that's understandable. It was hot out there." Hernandez threw 84 pitches, but because he always wears a long-sleeve shirt under his jersey, the energy level decreased the longer he pitched. Hernandez said he can't wear short sleeves because, "my hands would get wet [with sweat]." The game plan was to "not work too hard," throw a lot of strikes and get outs as quickly as possible. The first batter he faced, Frank Catalanotto, singled to left field. But Felix retired the next 14 batters, striking out seven of them and not allowing another batted ball to leave the infield until Jarrod Saltalamacchia tried to check his swing and accidentally dropped a two-out single over third baseman Adrian Beltre's head. Hernandez threw a first-pitch ball to David Murphy, who drove it on a line into the right-field seats, just over the yellow home run line. All of a sudden the game was tied. "It would have been a double [at Safeco Field]," Hernandez said. "I had a good two-seamer all night, and that one was supposed to be down and away." After working a scoreless sixth inning, which included his only walk of the game, Hernandez notified McLaren and pitching coach Rafael Chaves that his energy level was low and it would be best to give the final nine outs to the bullpen. George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow and closer J.J. Putz finished it up, although the Rangers threatened in the eighth inning, putting a runner on third with one out against Morrow. The Mariners were ahead by one run at the time, that coming on Guillen's two-out single to right field in the seventh that scored Ichiro Suzuki from second. Morrow, working on a 16-inning scoreless streak when the inning started, surrendered a leadoff single to Travis Metcalf, who went to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a wild pitch. "I wanted to get an out anyway I could," Morrow said. Though a strikeout would be the best way, Morrow induced Ian Kinsler to hit a fly ball into medium right-center, where both Ichiro and Guillen converged. "I knew the run wasn't going to score on that," Morrow said. "You are not going to run on either one of those guys. It didn't matter. Either one was going to throw a strike to home plate." Ichiro caught the ball and fired a bullet towards home and the runner on third never budged. Morrow retired Michael Young on a line drive to Guillen in right-center and Putz worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his career-best 37th save of the season. Guillen was the main man in the lineup on this night, finishing with three of the Mariners' 13 hits -- their eighth straight game with at least 10 hits. "Those guys are swinging the bats as well as anybody," Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood said. "I don't care if you're talking about the Yankees or the Red Sox. And their pitcher has been pitching great for awhile. I knew I couldn't give up much to have a chance to win." All four runs Seattle scored came off Millwood, but it could have been more. After scoring a single run in the second on doubles by Kenji Johjima and Ichiro, the Mariners put runners on second and third with none out in the third. Guillen reached on an error and then hustled to third base when Raul Ibanez singled to left field. But Millwood retired the next three batters -- Beltre, Richie Sexson and Johjima -- without allowing a ball out of the infield. "We have to get those runs," McLaren said. To score runs in Saturday night's game, the Mariners must do it without Ichiro or shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the lineup. McLaren said after Friday night's game that Ichiro would get his first complete game off and Betancourt, hitless in Seattle's latest win but batting well over .300 since the All-Star break, would also get a break in the third game of the series. "We'll probably rest a couple of other guys on Sunday," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.