ARLINGTON, Texas — A sub-optimal Felix Hernandez is — no surprise — still pretty good. Still good enough Wednesday night to stymie Texas into the seventh inning and help the Mariners complete a three-game sweep.
This 5-2 victory was harder than it should have been because the Mariners were 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners. No matter. Hernandez (4-0) and the bullpen made it work.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Hernandez said. “My changeup was up. I fell behind a lot of times. The sinker was working pretty good, but that was it.”
The game turned on Logan Morrison’s bounding two-run double (VIDEO LINK) past first base with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. That broke a 2-2 tie. The ball eluded first baseman Kyle Blanks.
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“I was thinking, `Don’t get doubled up,” Morrison said. “`Get to first. It got through, and then they gave (me) a double. I was like…I’ll take it.”
It could easily have been scored an error.
Either way, it was the difference.
The Mariners scored just 10 runs in sweeping the series for their first three-game winning streak of the season. They are back to within one game of .500 at 10-11 as they head into a four-game series at first-place Houston.
“I felt we had a good series,” Morrison said. “We won the games we needed to win. We need to go to Houston and do the same thing.”
Hernandez gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, which actually hiked his ERA from 1.61 to 1.82. He walked one and struck out four, which left him one shy of Johan Santana’s record for Venezuelan-born pitchers.
Danny Farquhar got four outs after replacing Hernandez before Fernando Rodney pitched another one-two-three ninth for his third save in the series. Rodney is 7-for-8 overall in save situations.
Hernandez did become the Mariners’ all-time leader in innings pitched by boosting his total to 2,095 1/3. The record previously belonged to Jamie Moyer at 2,093 from 1996-06.
“Not really,” Hernandez said. “I’m still 29. But that’s pretty sweet. I’m healthy, and I can do a lot more.”
Justin Ruggiano started the decisive fifth inning with a leadoff double against Texas starter Wandy Rodriguez. After struggling Robinson Cano struck out weakly, Nelson Cruz received an intentional walk.
No surprise there. Cruz opened the scoring in the second inning against Rodriguez with a tape-measure drive to left field for his 10th homer of the season.
Rickie Weeks drew his third walk, which loaded the bases, before Morrison pulled his hopper up the first-base line.
“It wasn’t the best swing,” Morrison said. “It wasn’t the best pitch to swing at. It worked out.”
The two-run double finished Rodriguez (0-1), who gave up four runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. His line could have been a lot worse; the Mariners repeatedly let him off the hook.
Cano remains mired in a now-record slump. He reached base twice on errors but finished the game at 0-for-5 and is hitless in his last 18 at-bats, which matches a career worst.
His previous 0-for-18 skid came as a rookie in 2005 with the Yankees.
Morrison, in contrast, finished with four hits after entering the night with just 10 in his first 19 games. His average jumped from .149 to .194.
“I’ve had some tough ones,” he said, “but at the same time, I need to be swinging the bat better. They found holes tonight. It’s better to be lucky than good some nights, and tonight was one of them.”
Cruz’s homer was a leadoff boomer in the second inning that was just the 19th to land in the club level in the park’s 22-year history. The Rangers estimated the distance at 430 feet; ESPN tracked it at 447 feet.
It marked the third time that Cruz, who spent eight years with the Rangers, reached the club level. The only player with more is Juan Gonzalez with four.
“I hit it pretty good,” Cruz acknowledged. “You don’t see that very often…A today like today is special. You hit a homer, and you win the game. Those are the ones that definitely matter the most.”