Seattle has stumbled into August, losing six of its last 10 games, and Felix Hernandez could deliver a huge feel-good victory for his team tonight.
Already an 11-game winner and the ace of a young, retooled rotation, Henandez has never had consistent success against Texas – he’s 5-9 against the Rangers with a 4.13 career earned run average.
Behind him, the Mariners have stacked five left-handed hitters in their lineup against right-hander Tommy Hunter.
One win doesn’t break a slump, but if Felix wins, it sets a tone and takes pressure off the men who follow him in the rotation. Win tonight, the Mariners can still split the series. Lose, and Ian Snell pitches to prevent a sweep.
It’s Hernandez vs. Hunter.
Junior hits No. 622
Ichiro singled, Lopez walked and with one out Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 11th of the season to center field.
Not just runs but dramatic runs – a Mariners show of power in a series where it seemed all the long balls had been hit by Rangers.
In the first: Mariners 3, Rangers 0
Pitching and defense
Given that lead, Felix walked the first man he faced, gave up a single to the next and, with one out, had runners at second and third base.
Marlon Byrd flied to right field, Omar Vizquel tried to score and Ichiro threw him out on a close play at the plate.
Felix left the bases loaded in the second and is clearly feeling his way.
Griffey Jr., meanwhile, added a doublein the third inning and scoreed on Jack Hannahan’s RBI single.
With two outs, Ryan Lanfgerhans tripled home Jack Wilson, who’d been aboard on a fielders choice.
In the third: Mariners 5, Rangers 0
Felix has been fighting himself and the Rangers all night, and Nelson Cruz just crushed a home run into the Seattle bullpen that nearly took out the whole staff.
It’s only one run, but it was impressive.
After four: Mariners 5, Rangers 1
Not the Felix you know
He’s through five innings and has allowed one run, but Hernandez is off tonight.
Evidence? At one point in the fifth, he’d throw 64 pitches – 33 strikes, 31 balls. That’s not the kind of control Felix usually wins with.
Still, he’s getting help. Russell Branyan caught a line drive and turned it into another double play, stepping on the bag to catch Elvis Andrus.
Ichiro’s second infield single was followed with a one-out, hit-and-run double by Jose Lopez that scored Ichiro from first base.
It was the 58th RBI of the season for Lopez, who leads the team, and the 58th run scored by Ichiro.
In the sixth: Mariners 6, Rangers 1
Ranger stay within range
Byrd doubled and with two outs, Cruz drove him in.
Hernandez has thrown 89 pitches in six innings and been in constant trouble. He’ll probably start the seventh inning, but may not get beyond that.
After six: Mariners 6, Rangers 2
Mariners left the bases loaded in the seventh, when Ichiro and Branyan each struck out – and Felix is in trouble again in the bottom half.
A leadoff double, followed by a hit batter? Hernandez has gotten this far on grit and some luck – six hits, four walks and a hit batter.
Felix got out of it by catching a line drive at his head. That was the last pitch he’ll throw tonight.
After seven: Mariners 6, Rangers 2
Mr. Lopez helps the cause
When Felix pitches, Lopez hits just a little better.
Leading off the eighth inning, Lopez hit his 15th home run – and the fifth in 74 at-bas in games Hernandez has started.
Griffey, meanwhile, now has a single, double and home run tonight. All he needs are extra innings and a miracle to hit for the cycle.
Mark Lowe coming in to pitch.
In the eighth: Mariners 7, Rangers 2
And in the end
With the big lead, Lowe finished up Felix’s 12th win and the Mariners 54th of the season.
It’s final: Mariners 7, Rangers 2