SEATTLE (AP) — No matter how much the Cleveland Indians tried to avoid thinking about what Felix Hernandez did the last time he was on the mound, the 39,000 fans — most of them clad in yellow shirts commemorating his perfect game — made it hard to forget.
Hernandez wasn’t perfect, but he was very good throwing 7 2-3 innings and allowing just one run, and the Seattle Mariners won their seventh straight with a 5-1 win over the reeling Indians on Tuesday night.
“Other than the 35,000 fans wearing their Felix things, it was kind of hard not to notice it,” Indians outfielder Brett Lillibridge said.
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It was the first start for Hernandez (12-5) since tossing the 23rd perfect game in major league history last week against Tampa Bay. Any dreams of Hernandez throwing another perfecto ended after just three pitches when Cleveland leadoff hitter Jason Kipnis singled on a 0-2 pitch through the infield.
But every time Hernandez found himself in trouble the Indians failed to capitalize as they lost their seventh straight.
“He’s an elite guy. He’s thrown the ball extremely well the last two months. He’s phenomenal,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “A lot of people don’t understand. They just think about velocity with him. It’s not about velocity. It’s about those secondary pitches that he has that are well above average. He’s able to throw for strikes at any time.”
Seattle has won 14 of 15 at home and Hernandez improved to 8-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his last 13 starts. He left to a long ovation with two outs in the eighth after throwing 105 pitches. It was the final moment in a night where nearly every move Hernandez made was greeted by noise.
Most of the crowd was clad in yellow shirts with the words “King of Perfection” honoring his perfect game. Every move Hernandez made was accompanied by raucous applause, whether it was walking out to the bullpen for his pregame routine or when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup.
He allowed seven hits and struck out five and continued a brilliant two months of pitching. His last loss came on June 12 in San Diego.
“It was pretty amazing,” Hernandez said. “This was something special.”
Cleveland starter Roberto Hernandez (0-2) was very good for six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. He didn’t allow a hit until Eric Thames’ solo home run with two outs in the fifth that gave Seattle a 1-0 lead. It was 1-1 in the seventh when Hernandez issued a leadoff walk to Michael Saunders, a single to Kyle Seager and a run-scoring ground-rule double to John Jaso to put the Mariners in front.
That ended his night, but reliever Esmil Rogers immediately gave up a three-run homer to Jesus Montero, a 438-foot blast off the facade of the upper deck in left field. It was Montero’s 13th homer.
“The ball took off so quick,” Montero said. “I was like, `Where’s the ball?’ And the ball was in the stands.”
Felix Hernandez allowed two hits in the first along with Shin-Soo Choo’s broken-bat single, but got Carlos Santana to hit into a double play to get out of the inning. He later got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into a double play to get out of the third and a tremendous diving catch by Trayvon Robinson robbed Casey Kotchman of extra bases in the fifth.
Kotchman got even in the seventh when his double-play grounder took a bad hop over shortstop Brendan Ryan’s glove to score Santana and tie the game at 1. The Indians then botched a squeeze play with Michael Bradley getting tagged out in the rundown and Hernandez struck out Lillibridge to end the inning.
It was the first run Hernandez had allowed in 17 innings. He had retired 11 straight before Santana singled with one out in the seventh.
“I could have thrown the bat at it but it was a tough pitch and it wasn’t the pitch we were looking for,” Lillibridge said of the botched squeeze. “When thing s are going like that you find different ways of not being able to execute.”
NOTES: Hernandez’s eight-game winning streak is the second-longest of his career. … Tuesday’s crowd of 39,204 was the third-largest of the season and just the 11th time in 62 home games the Mariners have drawn more than 30,000. … Cleveland RHP Josh Tomlin will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday in Southern California. He will miss the rest of this season and likely much of 2013.