ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Felix Hernandez has a chance at his first 20-win season after completing his own sweep of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
Seattle’s ace worked into the sixth inning Sunday to become the American League’s first 18-game winner. The 9-2 victory was Hernandez’s fifth in as many starts this season against Texas.
“That’s what every pitcher wants, winning 20 games,” said Hernandez, who has at least two more starts.
The right-hander left with two outs in the sixth inning with a stiff pitching elbow, a move the Mariners called precautionary after 105 pitches. He gave up two runs, struck out five and matched a season high with five walks.
“I didn’t want to take any chances so I just got him out of the there,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I saw him wiggling his arm. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ and he said, “I’m just a little stiff.’ I said, ‘Give me the ball.’”
Hernandez (18-9) is expected to make his scheduled start next weekend at the Los Angeles Angels, when he could match his career high with a 19th victory.
“It was a long inning. I got stiff. It’s not a big deal.” Hernandez said. “I’ve been worse before. I’ll be fine.”
Robinson Cano’s 17th home run, a three-run drive in the fifth, put Seattle up 7-2 and chased Derek Holland (3-3). That came two batters after Kyle Seager’s tiebreaking, two-run double, and before Franklin Gutierrez connected off Ross Ohlendorf.
Hernandez walked a batter in the bottom of the fifth after the long wait, but got out of that inning when he snagged Adrian Beltre’s liner — and then tossed to ball to his friend and former teammate.
“I was just trying to help him give it to fans. The crowd got a little upset, but it was something between him and me,” Hernandez said with a smile.
In his first at-bat Sunday, Beltre stepped in the box with a smile on his face, and both made gestures to the other.
A six-time All-Star, Hernandez joined Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer as the only pitchers with multiple 18-win seasons for the Mariners. He won 19 games in 2009, the year before he was the AL Cy Young winner.
King Felix is 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA against Texas this year, only the fifth pitcher since 1972 to beat the Rangers five times in the same season. He is the first to accomplish the feat since Bartolo Colon was 6-0 for the Angels against Texas in 2004.