Felix Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, pitching the Seattle Mariners past the first-place Texas Rangers 2-1 on Friday night and boosting his bid for the AL Cy Young Award.
Nelson Cruz hit a leadoff homer to center field in the eighth against Hernandez (12-11), who gave up three hits in eight innings to win a pitchers' duel with C.J. Wilson (14-7). Hernandez retired 21 straight after walking his first batter of the game.
It was the second time in his career that Hernandez lost a no-hit bid on the first batter of the eighth inning. He also threw seven hitless innings against the Boston Red Sox on April 11, 2007.
The right-hander walked one and struck out eight, reclaiming the major league lead in strikeouts from Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels.
David Aardsma pitched a perfect ninth for his 30th save.
The mark against Hernandez in the Cy Young race is his pedestrian won-lost record. But he pitches for a team with the worst record in the AL, and he leads the league in ERA (2.35) and innings (233 2-3).
King Felix was runner-up to Kansas City ace Zack Greinke for the Cy Young Award last year. This season, his competition includes CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, among others.
The Rangers struggled to make solid contact against Hernandez. Bengie Molina grounded out to start the sixth, driving third baseman Jose Lopez back to the edge of the outfield grass. First baseman Casey Kotchman had to dig the throw out of the dirt. Hernandez induced three grounders back to the mound, and not a single ball that left infield was hit with any authority until Cruz's home run.
Texas finally strung together a couple of hits off Hernandez in the eighth. After Cruz's homer, Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis singled to put a runner in scoring position for the first time. After a double steal, Hernandez got Julio Borbon to ground out to end the threat.
Franklin Gutierrez singled leading off the Seattle second. After advancing on a chopper to the mound by Adam Moore, Gutierrez stole third and scored on a wild pitch from Wilson, who yielded six hits in his third complete game of the season and second in a losing effort.
Ichiro Suzuki hit a one-out single, then stole second and third. Chone Figgins delivered an RBI single on a full-count pitch to give the Mariners a 2-0 cushion.
Notes: Seattle DH Russell Branyan was scratched from the lineup with a stiff back. He was replaced by Matt Tuiasosopo, who batted eighth. ... Suzuki and Figgins each reached 40 stolen bases. They became the second pair of teammates in franchise history to steal 40 in a season. Phil Bradley and Harold Reynolds accomplished the feat in 1987.