Of all the impressive numbers All-Star Felix Hernandez is producing this season, Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is most impressed with his ace’s ability to stop losing streaks.
Hernandez (10-3) allowed two runs in eight innings in the Mariners‘ 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, making him 9-2 in starts following a Seattle loss. The Mariners lost 4-1 to Cleveland on Thursday.
“That’s an ace. That’s an All-Star,” Wakamatsu said. “To be able to run somebody out there with that caliber, especially after a loss last night and how sloppy we played, it’s nice to be able to turn right around and play pretty good baseball.”
Hernandez allowed five hits, walked one and struck out eight in his first start since pitching a scoreless inning in Tuesday’s All-Star game. He lowered his ERA to 2.51, ranking him second in the American League behind Kansas City’s Zack Greinke (2.12).
“I’m commanding all of my pitches,” Hernandez said. “I’m aggressive and can attack the strike zone. I can throw any pitch in any count. That’s the key for me right now.”
Since his last loss on May 19, Hernandez is 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA in 10 starts.
“He throws 97 and everything sinks,” said recently acquired third baseman Jack Hannahan, who had plenty of experience facing Hernandez while playing in Oakland. “Nothing he throws is straight.”
The Indians didn’t get a runner past second base until the sixth, when Grady Sizemore tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly. Sizemore doubled home the Indians‘ other run in the eighth and is 7 for 14 lifetime against Hernandez.
Cleveland’s only other legitimate scoring threat was in the eighth, but Ben Francisco hit into a double play with runners at first and second and no outs. Francisco is 0 for 9 lifetime against Hernandez.
“He had an outstanding fastball,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s always had a great arm, but he’s really matured as a pitcher and how he utilizes his stuff. He has a special arm and he’s pitching with it.”
Franklin Gutierrez, acquired from Cleveland in a three-team trade last December, hit his 11th home run in the second. He entered with a league-best .385 average since June 18 and has hit in 23 of his last 25 games.
“I’m playing every day and I’m playing relaxed,” Gutierrez said. “I’m not putting pressure on myself. When I was playing here, I felt a little bit of pressure because I wanted to play every day. Here they gave me the opportunity to do that.”
The bottom third of Seattle’s order – Rob Johnson, Hannahan and Ronny Cedeno – combined to go 3 for 7 with two walks and four runs scored. Cedeno, the No. 9 batter, had two two-out RBI singles.
Since the beginning of July, when Cedeno essentially took over as the starting shortstop, he is batting .260 with two home runs and eight RBIs. He was hitting .117 on June 27.
“As a bench player, you’re reminded of that number and feel like you can never get over it,” Wakamatsu said. “Playing every day has given him a breath of fresh air. You look at his body languague and everything starts to exude more confidence.”
Cedeno, who homered Thursday, has hit in five straight games and has nine RBIs in his last 15 games.
“When you play every day, you feel a lot more comfortable,” Cedeno said. “You feel relaxed. When they make the lineup and you see your name there, it feels great.”
Cleveland’s David Huff (4-4) needed 108 pitches to survive five innings. Along with Gutierrez’s homer, he allowed RBI singles to Ichiro Suzuki and Cedeno in the fourth. The hit for Ichiro extended his streak to 13 games.
“I was throwing strikes and getting ahead, but they were hitting the ball,” Huff said. “You’ve got to give it to them.”
Victor Martinez and Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland’s Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, have a combined 10 hits in their last 98 at-bats. Martinez is 7 for 74 (.095) since June 20.
The last-place Indians broke the 1 million mark in attendance in their 46th home date. The only teams in the league that have drawn fewer fans are Toronto and Oakland.
Indians reliever Jose Veras allowed an earned run Friday in 2-3 of an inning. He has a 6.75 ERA in July (four runs, 5 1-3 innings). … Mariners third basemen have combined to commit six errors in 13 games since Adrian Beltre went on the DL June 29. … Wakamatsu said LHP Garrett Olson will remain in the rotation despite lasting 2 1-3 innings and taking the loss Thursday. Olson will start Tuesday in Detroit.