SEATTLE (AP) — The best of Felix Hernandez doesn’t mean what it did in the past. He’s not going to blow away hitters with his fastball the way Hernandez did earlier in his career.
What Hernandez showed Sunday is his best at this stage of his career is still capable of being dominant.
“That was absolutely the best we have seen him all year,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Hernandez rediscovered some of his past form allowing two hits over six strong innings, and Nelson Cruz hit his 17th home run of the season to give the Mariners a 4-0 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list late last month, Hernandez had the best command of his pitches perhaps all season.
Hernandez struck out a season-high eight, including a stretch with four of five outs retired via the strikeout in the fourth and fifth innings. Hernandez had better separation in the speeds between his fastball in the low-90s and a change up in the mid-80s and an excellent curveball.
Hernandez (4-3) allowed only a third-inning double to Matt Joyce and a two-out single to Jaycob Brugman in the fifth. Tony Zych, Mark Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz got the final nine outs for Seattle’s eighth shutout of the season.
“From fastball to change up, everything was perfect,” Hernandez said.
Before heading off to the All-Star Game, Cruz homered for the third time in the past five games after going more than a month without a long ball. Cruz’s home run came in the fourth inning and followed Robinson Cano’s double leading off the inning against Oakland starter Daniel Gossett.
Cruz has been playing through a knee injury and Servais was hopeful his slugger wouldn’t be on his feet much during the All-Star Game and would be limited to just one at-bat.
“You don’t have to run hard anyway,” Cruz said jokingly.
Gossett (1-4) was pulled after 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and five hits. He had pitched at least six innings in two of his previous three starts. Oakland manager Bob Melvin said the situation more than the way Gossett was pitching dictated making the move.
“At that point with four days off and a loaded bullpen I just couldn’t give up another run with lefties coming up,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Third time through the middle of the order I just thought it was time for him to come out. But I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”
Seattle also got a run in the third inning thanks to the speed of Jarrod Dyson and his aggressive base running going from first to third on Carlos Ruiz’s single to left-center field. Dyson scored when Jean Segura grounded into a double play. Ruiz had a three-hit game and added an RBI single in the seventh inning.
Seattle closed out the pre-All-Star break portion of the schedule at 43-47, but was just 4-10 over the final 14 games prior to the break, including 2-9 at home.
Oakland was shutout for the fifth time this season and at 39-50 has the ninth-worst record in club history since moving to Oakland. They are 21 games behind in the division, the second-largest deficit the club has faced at the break since moving to Oakland.
70 AT THE BREAK
Cruz’s home run gave him an AL-best 70 RBIs at the All-Star break. He’s the seventh different player in club history to reach that mark before the break, but the first to do so since Raul Ibanez in 2006.
Hernandez’s eight strikeouts gave him 2,310 for his career, moving him past Juan Marichal for 49th on the all-time strikeouts list. It was also his 55th career start with at least six scoreless innings pitched.
Athletics: Oakland will turn to Sonny Gray in the first game following the All-Star break, manager Bob Melvin said. Paul Blackburn will pitch the second game and Sean Manaea will go in game three.
Mariners: Seattle will start after the All-Star break with James Paxton on the mound, followed by Felix Hernandez and likely rookie Andrew Moore. The fourth in the rotation is expected to be Ariel Miranda, who was the only Seattle starter to stay healthy throughout the first half of the season.
Athletics: Oakland will open up at home following the All-Star break beginning with a three-game series against Cleveland.
Mariners: Seattle will open up after the All-Star break with a six-game road trip beginning in Chicago against the White Sox.