With the supreme court in session and a jury of 38,968 at Safeco Field, Felix Hernandez was judged at his best Friday night, helping carry the Mariners to a 6-4 win over the Oakland A’s. Over seven innings, he yielded four hits, no walks and struck out 11. Hernandez struck out the side in the seventh inning, and was pulled after he let on base the first two batters in the eighth. Both scored later in the inning.
Despite the four late runs that created a scare, Lloyd McClendon praised the effort of his No. 1 starter.
“He was outstanding,” the Seattle manager said. “He had a great mix of all his pitches. He did a great job for us.”
Said Hernandez: “The supreme court today was awesome. I had to throw a good game, right? For the fans?”
He did that. The win improved Hernandez’s numbers to 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA.
His exit breathed some brief life into an A’s offense overwhelmed for the second consecutive meeting with the Mariners’ ace. After Daric Barton was hit by a pitch and Eric Sogard singled, reliever Lucas Luetge threw four straight balls to put on Sam Fuld. Danny Farquhar was next. He walked Jed Lowrie to force home Barton, then struck out Josh Donaldson.
Three more runs would come across as the A’s cut the lead to 6-4 after eight. But closer Fernando Rodney shut the door in the ninth, despite a leadoff double.
The win moved Seattle (6-3) into first in the AL West. They did so by getting Hernandez some early run support off A’s starter Tommy Milone.
Seattle led off the first with three singles in a row, the last from Robinson Cano driving in a run.
Milone rebounded. His assortment of breaking balls ranging from slow, slower and slowest kept hitters off balance for three innings.
His defense let him down in the fourth, the Mariners tacking on two more runs, both with two outs. Third baseman Josh Donaldson threw wide to first in an attempt to get Mike Zunino. The throw skipped into the stands, allowing Dustin Ackley to score from second, where he was stationed after his double. Shortstop Jed Lowrie then kicked a routine grounder off the bat of Abraham Almonte to allow in Zunino.
In the sixth, after Ackley led off with another base hit, Zunino followed with a homer over the left-field wall, sending Milone to an early shower trailing 5-0.
After Almonte fouled out, Brad Miller greeted A’s reliever Drew Pomeranz with a home run to center on the first pitch, for a 6-0 lead.
When the team gives Hernandez a lead, it usually bodes well.
“I think just to get out early, that’s been key for us,” Ackley said. “When we do that, he’s even more dominant . . . We kind of let (the opposition) not get in a comfort zone.”
McClendon will announce a starter for Tuesday’s game in Texas by Saturday. It appears that only Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan are under consideration. Walker threw 84 pitches in a rehab outing in AA Jackson Wednesday and declared himself ready to go afterward. That, however, is up to McClendon, who made it clear when Walker is called up, he is ready to stay for the duration of the season.
“We want to be cautious with Taijuan. We have to make sure he’s ready to compete at this level,” McClendon said in his pre-game chat with reporters. “The game is a little bit more stressful at this level than it is at the minor league level. The number of pitches that you throw, the outs that you get are going to be harder — you have to take all of that into account.”
In other injury news, Hisashi Iwakuma will throw a 50-pitch bullpen session Saturday, mixing in more off-speed pitches. McClendon said he is still a few sessions away from facing live hitters.
Left-hander James Paxton had an injection in his strained lat muscle to help the healing. Because of that injection, he won’t be re-evaluated for another week.