09/18/10 2:45 AM ET
Felix's near no-no snaps Seattle's skid
Ace's bid broken up in eighth inning via Cruz homer
By Jim Street / MLB.com
"It's coming," he said Friday night.
In the series opener against the Rangers, Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning for the second time in his career, and just like the first one, a solo home run by the first batter he faced in the inning ended the no-no bid.
J.D. Drew did it at Fenway Park three years ago and Nelson Cruz duplicated it on Friday night, slugging a leadoff home run to left-center, the only run Hernandez would allow in the Mariners' 2-1 victory over the Rangers before 19,302 at Safeco Field.
Hernandez surrendered two more hits in the inning, but escaped the jam to keep the Mariners in front, and closer David Aardsma notched his 30th save with a clean ninth inning as Seattle snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Everyone at Safeco Field thought Hernandez might pull off the no-hitter. He was that good.
"He has that kind of stuff every time he goes out there," interim manager Daren Brown said. "Obviously, for all the baseball reasons, not much is said. It may cross your mind when you look out and see all the zeroes. But I know he is the type of guy who can go out and those things can happen."
Hernandez won his 12th game and surely boosted his chances of winning the American League Cy Young Award. He dominated a lineup that soon will be the American League West champions.
"That was pretty good," Hernandez said. "I had good command."
After walking the first batter he faced, Hernandez retired 21 in a row, taking him through the seventh inning with a no-hitter. He was six outs from joining Randy Johnson and Chris Bosio in the Mariners' exclusive no-hit club.
"As soon as that ball was hit, you knew it was gone," rookie catcher Adam Moore said of Cruz's blast. "He got every bit of it."
"It was a fastball, up a little and a little away," Hernandez said. "Not a bad pitch, but he hit it hard."
One out and two singles later, Hernandez was in a bind. But the tying and go-ahead runs were stranded in scoring position when Elvis Andrus grounded out to shortstop Josh Wilson on Hernandez's 98th -- and final -- pitch of the game.
"Hernandez did a nice job of conserving his pitches," Brown said. "I had to check a couple of times to make sure. I saw 73 pitches after seven innings."
High pitch counts in much of the season have prompted the Mariners to be conservative with their ace during the final weeks of the regular season.
But it takes a lot of pitches to take games as far as he does on a regular basis. He pitched at least eight innings for the 14th time and extended his club record of consecutive quality starts to 23.
"I've seen him a lot, and he's good, but tonight he was outstanding," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He had a good changeup, good sink, worked fast, hit his spots and pounded the strike zone. It was outstanding."
The Rangers never came close to getting a hit until Cruz's ball went up, up and away.
With one out in the sixth inning, Julio Borbon attempted to bunt his way on, but Hernandez fielded the ball and threw the runner out at first.
"He should know he shouldn't do that, not in a no-hitter," Hernandez said. "That shows disrespect."
The Mariners ace ended the inning with his seventh strikeout, and fanned the first batter in the seventh for his eighth punch-out of the game, regaining the top spot in the AL, ahead of the Angels' Jered Weaver.
The eighth inning was the only difficult one he encountered all night.
"We got to him a little bit in the eighth," Washington said. "We had our chance, we had two shots at him, but he was good. He had good stuff all over the place. We weren't sitting around thinking about being no-hit. We were thinking about scoring runs and winning the game."
That is something the Rangers had done all season against Hernandez.
"They have been tough on me my whole career," he said.
Hernandez entered the game with a 0-3 record and 6.38 ERA against the Rangers this season. In 26 career starts, he has never pitched a complete game against them.
He still doesn't, but at least he has a "W" to show for a good effort.
It was a combination of precision and domination as Hernandez dazzled the soon-to-be American League West champions with mid-90 mph fastballs and off-speed pitches that reached the strike zone travelling at around 82 mph.
Hernandez went into his 32nd start of the season having thrown 225 2/3 innings this season -- 186 of them scoreless. He extended that to 195 innings before giving up a run, the 20th inning that he's surrendered one run in an inning.
The Mariners have two no-hitters in their history book, the first by Johnson against the Tigers on June 2, 1990, and Bosio against the Red Sox on April 22, 1993 -- both games at the Kingdome.
The opener got off a bad start before the first pitch was thrown. Designated hitter Russell Branyan, the cleanup hitter on the original lineup, was scratched because of a sore back.
Brown juggled his lineup, moving Franklin Gutierrez into the No. 4 spot and the center fielder responded with a leadoff-spot kind of effort in the second inning.
He reached on an infield single, advanced to third on a roller back to the mound, stole third and scored on a wild pitch with two outs and two strikes on Michael Saunders.
The theft was Gutierrez's 22nd of the season, increasing his already career-high for stolen bases in one season. His previous high was 16, set last season.
Seattle added a second run in the third when Ichiro Suzuki singled with one out, stole second and third bases, and trotted home when Chone Figgins singled to center.
Ichiro stole his 40th and 41st bases while Figgins pilfered his 40th, giving Seattle its first 40-40 stolen base tandem since Harold Reynolds (60) and Phil Bradley (40) in 1987.
"I thought our guys were aggressive on the bases," Brown said. "It led to us to getting a run on a wild pitch, and both runs."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.