SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez had another dominant pitching effort and got just enough support to get a victory.
He gave up four singles in his 111-pitch effort, walking one and striking out nine. At least for this start, Hernandez (11-10) had a fair measure of run support. In his 10 losses, the Mariners have scored a combined 10 runs for Hernandez while he was on the mound. That's one reason why he's on the fringe of the Cy Young Award discussion despite impressive numbers.
Hernandez is first in the majors in strikeouts (209), first in league in innings (219), second in the league in ERA (2.30), but tied for 41st in wins. He has the second worst run support in the league.
"I've been on teams where's it's been like that for a guy for maybe 10, 12 starts but not a complete season," Branyan said. "It's unfortunate for him for his wins and losses, but you can't take away the other numbers, his ERA, his strikeout, innings pitched. He has been incredible this year."
Manager Daren Brown tends to think his run scarcity is just coincidence.
"Sometimes I think it's coincidence more than anything else and sometimes there might be a feeling of you may not have to score very many because you know how good the guy is on the mound," Brown said.
"For me I think it's probably coincidence, not to mention a lot of times a guy like Felix, you've got to look at who he's matching up against," he added. "When you've got your No. 1 guy, a lot of times he's going against the No. 1 guy on the other side. Especially early in the season the first two or three months that's a lot of what you get."
Even when Hernandez isn't on the mound, the last-place Mariners are struggling to score runs. They have scored the fewest runs by far in baseball and have put up three runs or fewer over the past 10 games. It's the second longest such streak in club history. They went 12 games from June 10-22, 1988.
Hernandez has done what he can to keep Seattle in games. He's pitched into the seventh inning for 21 straight starts. That matches Randy Johnson's club record. Johnson did his over two seasons, his final 11 starts in 1992 and first 10 in 1993.
During that stretch, Hernandez is 9-7 with a 1.72 earned run average.
Jeanmar Gomez (3-3) took the loss for the Indians, allowing seven hits and two runs in six innings. He struck out three and didn't walk anyone.
Michael Saunders then hit a potential double play grounder to second baseman Luis Valbuena. He threw to second for the force but Saunders beat the relay, allowed Kotchman to score.
"What are you going to do? He's the best pitcher in the big leagues today," Indians Shin-Soo Choo said. "Everything, fastball, sinker, cutter, curveball, he throws for a strike anytime. You get one hit today, you had a good day."
Hernandez's effort was not without drama. The Indians mounted threats.
He retired the first seven batters, four on strikeouts, before Valbuena's one-out single just to the left of third baseman Jose Lopez. Chris Gimenez then bounced to Lopez, whose throw to second was dropped for an error by Chone Figgins. But Hernandez escaped by inducing Michael Brantley to fly out and Asdrubal Cabrera struck out.
Travis Hafner hit into a line-out double play to ease Hernandez out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth.
"His demeanor, that where he see it, as soon as they get runners on," catcher Adam Moore said of Hernandez. "They're not crossing that plate. He gets in there and gets after it, no outs, one out, two outs, doesn't matter to him. Nobody is going to score on him. Tonight when a couple guys got on, you could just see it in his eyes, no chance. Nobody is going to score in him. He didn't change his game."
Notes: CF Franklin Gutierrez did not start for the second straight game because of a stomach ailment. He was available to pinch hit. The Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners Triple-A team, needed to win today to determine their postseason fate. Mariners manager Daren Brown is quite interested, having managed the Rainiers the past four years before being named Mariners manager Aug. 9. "It's a little special when you accomplish something like that and it's important for those kids to go through that," Brown said.