This time, the Seattle Mariners didn’t let the game slip away. This time, the Mariners not only jumped on Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, but they kept them down.
It appears that the offensively challenged Mariners have the highly praised and higher-paid Japanese import figured out – something the rest of baseball hasn’t quite done.
Darvish had the worst start of his young career, giving up five runs (four earned) on four hits and walking six as Seattle knocked him out of the game in the fourth inning in the Mariners’ 6-1 win Monday night at Safeco Field.
In Darvish’s big-league debut April 9 in Texas, the Mariners scored four runs in the first inning. They would score a total of five runs off him that night, but there was one problem.
Texas would score 11 runs off starter Hector Noesi and the bullpen. It gave Darvish his first big league win and Seattle an early frustrating loss.
But Monday, there would be no salvaging the decision for Darvish or the Rangers.
Felix Hernandez was on the mound this time for the Mariners. The 2010 Cy Young winner took advantage of the rare run support and snapped a personal two-game losing streak to improve to 4-3 on the season.
Hernandez delivered one of his better outings of the season, throwing eight innings and allowing one run on six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
It was a solid effort after his previous start in Cleveland when he lasted 32/3 innings, giving up eight runs on 10 hits.
“I put that behind me and wanted to get this win here,” Hernandez said.
Before the game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge seemed confident that his ace would return to All-Star form, and Hernandez did.
“That’s just him,” Wedge said. “A great performance by Felix, he just really commanded the ballgame throughout. He did a great job of going out and shutting them out after we would score.”
Of course, better than normal run support helps.
Seattle (20-24) grabbed a 1-0 lead against Darvish. Michael Saunders drew a one-out walk and scored when Ichiro Suzuki tripled down the right-field line - the fourth consecutive game the Mariners have tripled.
After retiring the Mariners in order in the second, Darvish ran into trouble in the third. Ichiro continued to give his Japanese counterpart trouble, dumping a one-out single into center to score Dustin Ackley.
Center fielder Josh Hamilton threw to third to try to get an advancing Saunders. However, he airmailed the throw into the stands behind the dugout, allowing Saunders to score and Ichiro to advance to third. Jesus Montero hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Ichiro.
“Obviously, it was tougher the first time, but I’m not saying it was easier the second time,” Ichiro said through translator Antony Suzuki about facing Darvish.
Unlike the first meeting against Darvish, the Mariners didn’t remain satisfied or impatient, drawing six walks.
They tacked on another run in the fourth when Darvish couldn’t throw a strike. He walked the bases loaded to start the inning but, the Mariners being the Mariners, they managed to get only one run on an Ackley single, but no more.
“We were just being patient and looking for our pitch,” Ackley said. “He didn’t locate it as much as he would like and our guys didn’t miss the pitches we did get to hit.”
The Mariners were putting together quality at-bats. Even Mike Carp’s strikeout in the second forced Darvish to throw 10 pitches.
The fourth inning pushed Darvish’s pitch count to 96, enough to chase him from the game for his shortest outing of the season. He fell to 6-2 and has allowed nine runs in just over nine innings against Seattle.
“He had good velocity, but he just didn’t throw the ball in the strike zone,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “It’s one loss, we’ll move on. He apologized. He expected more. But he didn’t have to apologize – that’s just the game of baseball.”
The lone run for Texas (26-17) came in the eighth inning when Mitch Moreland blasted a solo homer to right-center off Hernandez. It kept the Rangers’ streak of not being shut out this season alive, but it wouldn’t matter as Hernandez pitched his way out of the inning to end his night’s work.
“It’s not easy against this lineup,” Hernandez said.
But at times he made it look easy. Hernandez made the dangerous Hamilton look silly at times. Hamilton went 0-for-3 against Hernandez with a strikeout, and is 8-for-44 against him for his career.
“With how hot he is right now, that was pretty good,” Hernandez said. “I was lucky.”
His teammates might argue that luck wasn’t a factor. They expect Hernandez to be this good every start, and particularly after such a rough outing.
“We are so confident when he’s up there, especially when we get runs early for him,” Ackley said. “When we get four or five runs for him early, we are just like, ‘We are right where we need to be.’ ”email@example.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/Mariners @RyanDivish