King Felix allowed one run over eight innings in another dominating start, maybe his last of the season, and Justin Smoak(notes) hit the tiebreaking homer as the last-place Mariners beat the AL West champion Rangers 3-1 on Tuesday night.
“I never see the lineup,” Hernandez said. “I just made good pitches. I’m just trying to get out of the innings quick.”
Hernandez (13-12) became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson(notes) in 2002 and only the seventh since 1980 to have a season with 30 quality starts (three earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings). The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.27, best in the AL.
“He has electric stuff. He can sink it, he can run it, he can spin it, he can change it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “And if he smells the finish line, he can get there. “
Washington opted to rest some of his regulars, giving third baseman Michael Young(notes), shortstop Elvis Andrus(notes), second baseman Ian Kinsler(notes) and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero(notes) the night off.
Texas slugger Josh Hamilton(notes), the majors’ leading hitter (.361), has been out since Sept. 4 with two broken ribs. The outfielder took some swings in the batting cage and shagged some balls during batting practice before the game and hopes to play this weekend.
“It doesn’t matter who he’s facing. He wants to compete,” Mariners interim manager Daren Brown said.
Hernandez struck out five and walked two while pitching into at least the seventh inning for the 25th consecutive start, extending his club record. He is 6-3 with an 0.96 ERA (eight earned runs over 75 1-3 innings) his past 10 starts. While Hernandez wants to start their season finale Sunday, the Mariners still list the starter for that game as undecided.
Asked if Hernandez has thrown enough innings already, Brown responded, “It’s something we’ll look at.”
“Nasty old Felix,” Molina said. ” Nasty, very nasty stuff. … He can control the game whenever he wants to.”
Smoak, part of the July 9 trade that sent left-hander Cliff Lee(notes) to the Rangers, hit a two-run homer in the fourth off Scott Feldman(notes) (7-11) to snap a 1-1 tie. The rookie first baseman’s 12th homer of the season was his second in as many nights against his former team.
“I wish I would have hit like this when I was here. It was a changeup out over the plate,” Smoak said. “Getting one against a team that traded you is more special. It’s a great win.”
Lopez left the game in the sixth after a hard-hit grounder to third base ricocheted off his throwing hand. Lopez immediately started shaking his right hand and even looked down at his fingers while retrieving the ball without throwing it. Nelson Cruz(notes) was credited with an infield single.
Lopez was grimacing in pain when he walked to the dugout after dislocating the tip of his middle finger.
The Rangers got their only run in the third on an RBI single by Murphy.
Feldman, the opening day starter who was later moved to the bullpen, allowed three runs and five hits over 4 1-3 innings.
With the Rangers planning to go with a three-man starting rotation of Lee, left-hander C.J. Wilson(notes) and right-hander Colby Lewis(notes) in the playoffs, Tommy Hunter(notes) will likely work out of the bullpen. In preparation for that, Hunter made his first relief appearance in the majors, striking out one of the two batters he faced after relieving Feldman with a runner at first.
“It was different, I will tell you that,” Hunter said. “I had some adrenaline going. I was ready to go after a couple of warmup pitches. … I’m usually not very worried about a runner at first. I really did not want him to score.”
Notes: Andres Blanco(notes), who played shortstop for Texas, dislocated a finger on his glove hand when making a diving stop. He said he is fine. … The Rangers will have to win their final five games to reach 92 wins—the mark that team president and co-owner Nolan Ryan had set as a goal before the season. But they already have their first division title since 1999. … Mariners INF Mike Carp(notes) has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. He sustained the injury running out a double Saturday at Tampa Bay.