Mariners 2, Angels 0
SEATTLE (AP)—Felix Hernandez heard the mantra as coaches repeatedly harped that locating his pitches was far more important than trying to strike everyone out.
Those words seem to be sinking in, and Hernandez flashed the dominating promise Monday night that the Seattle Mariners have been seeking.
Hernandez pitched a five-hitter for his first career shutout, leading Seattle over the Los Angeles Angels 2-0 and stopping the Mariners’ 20-game losing streak against the AL West.
“Today was really special. It was one of the best games I’ve ever had,” Hernandez said. “Everything was working really well. I had strikes with everything.”
Hernandez (11-12) threw 70 of 95 pitches for strikes, struck out four and walked none in his second complete game in 38 major league starts. All the Angels’ hits were singles, and Hernandez retired his last 10 batters. The game took just 1 hour, 51 minutes, the fastest in the history of Safeco Field, which opened in July 1999.
Last Wednesday against the New York Yankees, Hernandez gave up seven earned runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings, his worst major league start.
“My last outing, I was just trying to throw harder and harder and harder each time,” Hernandez said. “I think that happens to every pitcher. If you’re not hitting the strike zone, you just try and throw harder.”
Hernandez admitted that when he got into trouble against the Yankees, he called on his strength to try and throw harder, instead of smarter.
He had not won since Aug. 2 against Baltimore and had lost his previous three decisions. Frustrated with the way he was throwing, the 20-year-old accepted suggestions from his manager and pitching coach.
“I think that might have been an awakening,” Seattle pitching coach Rafael Chaves said of Hernandez’s prior outing. “I know Felix is a smart kid and you have to learn from your mistakes. What happened in the previous outing and what happened tonight … it should be the beginning of a lot of good outings just like that.”
Seattle’s losing streak was the longest against division rivals since the big leagues split into divisions in 1969. It matched the 1969 Montreal Expos’ skid against the NL West for the longest slide against teams from any division.
Seattle’s previous win against an AL West team was June 11, when it completed a three-game sweep of the Angels. Hernandez won that game, as well, throwing a four-hitter that required 94 pitches.
The Mariners won their fifth straight, tying their longest winning streak of the season.
“That was a real special night against a team that has been playing really well,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “Felix was quick, direct, challenged the hitters and was dominant.”
Hernandez was also helped by some outstanding defense, and he got 17 outs on grounders.
The Angels’ best chance came in the first, when Maicer Izturis tried scoring from second with two outs on Vladimir Guerrero’s infield dribbler to shortstop Willie Bloomquist. Guerrero beat the throw to first, but first baseman Richie Sexson pivoted and threw to catcher Kenji Johjima to get Izturis.
In the fourth, Jose Lopez’s backhand glove flip to Bloomquist started a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. Third baseman Adrian Beltre also made a fine backhanded catch along the railing of the Angels’ dugout.
Hernandez had a trio of seven-pitch innings—his most pitches came in the eighth, when he threw 16.
“You can make a pitcher work, but only so far as he will cooperate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was pounding the zone all night.”
Kelvim Escobar (9-12) pitched a seven-hitter his first complete game since June 8, 2003, against Cincinnati but lost his second straight decision. He struck out nine and walked none, and the Angels have now scored three runs or less in nine of Escobar’s 12 losses this season.
“It’s happened to me before,” Escobar said. “It didn’t really surprise me.”
Seattle got its runs in the fourth. Beltre grounded into the hole at shortstop with one out and beat Orlando Cabrera’s throw. Raul Ibanez reached for an offspeed pitch and lined it into right field, advancing Beltre to third.
Sexson then lined a shot off the wall in left to score Beltre. Escobar struck out Ben Broussard, but Johjima hit a pitch off the fists with an odd spin that bounced sideways in front of a charging Cabrera, allowing Ibanez to score on the single.
Sexson’s double was the only extra-base hit in the game.
It was the ninth game in the major leagues this season with no walks, the first since the Dodgers and Angels met June 30. … The Angels have been shut out six times this year.