Hernandez finishes a tough month with a big win for Mariners
If T.S. Eliot had been a pitcher and not a writer, maybe he wouldn’t have declared, “April is the cruelest month.”
He might instead have bestowed that honor on August.
Seattle starter Felix Hernandez certainly would have to feel that way.
Hernandez made his sixth and final start of the month Friday against Kansas City, and the best thing he can say about the month is that the worst that August can offer is behind him.
The Mariner ace allowed no more than three earned runs in any of the six starts, but Friday’s 6-3 victory over the Royals was just his second win of the month.
“Oh, man, I’m glad it’s over. It was a tough month,” said Hernandez, who improved to 13-7 with a 2.77 ERA. “I just wanted it to be over.”
He wanted the day to be over, too, seeing as he woke up with a headache and sinus pain. But he wasn’t about to turn the pitching over to anyone else.
“It’s my day to pitch, and I’m going to pitch,” he said. “I’ve got to do it. I’m not going to get scratched from a start for something like that.”
Hernandez was more than equal to the task, giving up five hits and one walk in his seven innings. He also struck out six, giving him a new career high of 182. At that point he had thrown 104 pitches, and he turned the ball over to the bullpen, with Sean White and David Aardsma getting the Mariners through the final two innings.
As poorly as Hernandez was feeling going into the game, he left that all behind, with a little help from designated hitter Mike Sweeney. With Seattle having scored a run in the second to go up 1-0, Sweeney was on third base when Josh Wilson hit a comebacker to Royals’ starter Brian Bannister. The right-hander looked at Sweeney to make sure he would stay at third base, then threw to first for the out.
Only Sweeney, who is close to being the slowest man on the Seattle roster, didn’t play by the rules. He broke for the plate, and by the time the Royals’ startled first baseman, Billy Butler, could get the ball back to the plate, Sweeney was sliding home with Seattle’s second run.
“That was awesome to watch – everybody (in the dugout) went crazy,” Hernandez said.
Manager Don Wakamatsu was as caught off guard by that move as by anything any member of his team has done this season.
“I don’t know if in my lifetime I’ll ever see that again,” Wakamatsu said.
Sweeney came down the line from third base as far as he could without giving Bannister the opportunity to trap him off base. Then when Bannister turned his back, Sweeney took off.
“Bannister looked a little lackadaisical to me,” Sweeney said. “I darted for home.”
The play at the plate was close, but Sweeney won the competition, and the Seattle dugout exploded.
Asked what the reaction was when he got to the dugout, Sweeney laughed and said, “Junior (Ken Griffey Jr.) wanted me to get drug-tested.”
Backup shortstop Josh Wilson, who has had as many big games for the Mariners as anyone in August, singled home two runs in the fourth for a 5-1 lead, and despite Hernandez’s being touched for a two-run homer by Mitch Maier in the fifth, the Mariner lead was never in real jeopardy.
In fact, Kansas City had just one base runner after Maier touched the plate. Hernandez retired the final seven men he faced – he had set down eight in a row earlier in the game – and after White threw a perfect inning, Aardsma gave up just a single before recording his 31st save.
NOTES: First baseman Russell Branyan came out of the game after four innings, having tweaked his back. He’s unlikely to play Saturday, but the Mariners will reserve a final decision for close to game time. … The Mariner Moose, riding his three-wheeler, came close to clipping the Royals’ left fielder, David DeJesus, but no harm ensued.