Turns out, major league hitters aren’t much of a match, either.
Seattle’s prized 19-year-old prospect pitched eight shutout innings in his second major league start and the Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 Tuesday night.
Hernandez (1-1), who lost his first big league start 3-1 Thursday at Detroit, allowed five hits, all singles, and struck out six in besting Kyle Lohse (7-11) in a pitching duel. The young right-hander threw 94 pitches—69 strikes—and did not walk a batter.
“This was different,” he said. “I felt much more comfortable.”
The native of Valencia, Venezuela, signed with the Mariners when he was 16 years old for a reported $710,000. He was called up from Triple-A Tacoma last Thursday after posting a 9-4 record with a 2.24 ERA in 19 games and 14 starts.
“This has always been my dream,” Hernandez said through a translator.
In his two starts this season, he has an 0.69 ERA—one earned run in 13 innings pitched.
“I was a little bit surprised, but things went really, really well,” Hernandez said.
Wiki Gonzalez, Seattle’s catcher who also is from Venezuela, caught Hernandez in Tacoma this season.
“Everything went perfect for him today,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think you can ask for anything more from him. This kid’s good.”
Hernandez was limited to 81 pitches in his five-inning major league debut in Detroit.
Manager Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Bryan Price discussed taking out Hernandez after seven innings.
“Not because of his pitch count, but because he had thrown a really outstanding ballgame and we wanted him to walk away with a positive feeling and not have something bad happen to him,” Hargrove said. “But he was throwing the ball so well that I couldn’t see not sending him back out there.”
Hernandez’s next start is expected to be next Monday in Seattle against the Kansas City Royals. The Mariners are trying to limit using Hernandez too much this season, but he has time in the final two months to make nine or 10 more starts.
Eddie Guardado pitched the ninth for his 27th consecutive save—his second in two nights—and his 28th save in 29 opportunities. He wanted to talk about the newest member of the Mariners’ rotation.
“He looked like he was about 28 or 29 out there,” Guardado said of Hernandez’s composure on the mound. “It was awesome to see.”
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said it wasn’t a matter of Hernandez’s poise, though.
“I think we are talking about a 97-mph fastball and a curveball,” he said. “I think you can overlook the poise point. He just has great stuff.”
Gardenhire said Hernandez still has to prove himself.
“That was one outing and you’re talking about a kid who is 19 years old,” he said.
The Mariners broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the seventh when Jeremy Reed doubled to right and rookie Yuniesky Betancourt tripled to center on consecutive pitches by Lohse. It was Betancourt’s second RBI in his 10th major league game.
Betancourt, who fled Cuba on a boat and then signed with the Mariners as a free agent in January, had two triples and two doubles among his eight hits in the majors.
He played with Hernandez in Tacoma this season and was happy to provide him with the winning run.
“I was just trying to make contact,” he said through a translator. “I never thought I’d hit a triple.”
The last-place Mariners beat the Twins—who are trying to hang on in the AL wild-card race—for the second straight night and dealt them their sixth consecutive road loss. Minnesota is 9-18 since the All-Star break and now trail by 8 1/2 games in the wild-card race.
Lohse lost his fifth decision in seven starts since posting his last victory June 2. But he pitched a strong game, too, allowing one run on four hits and two walks, with a season-high seven strikeouts.
Hernandez struck out Justin Morneau swinging with a 97-mph fastball for the second out, but third baseman Adrian Beltre’s throwing error on a ground ball by Terry Tiffee loaded the bases. Hernandez then got Jason Bartlett to ground out to end the inning.
Reed was caught stealing for the eighth time in 10 attempts. Reed had 59 stolen bases at Triple-A Charlotte and Triple-A Tacoma in 2004. … Beltre is tied for the Mariners’ lead with SS Mike Morse with 11 errors in 106 games. He had 10 errors in 157 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. … The game took 2:01, the shortest in Safeco Field history. The previous low was 2:04 against Cleveland on April 23. … The last time Minnesota lost 1-0 was May 1, 2004, against the Angels. The last time the Mariners won 1-0 was Sept. 15, 2004, against the Angels.