SEATTLE (AP) — Felix Hernandez handed the ball to his manager and strolled off the mound as a sea of yellow rose with a roaring acknowledgment not only of his latest effort, but another opportunity to express appreciation for his perfect game nearly a week ago.
King Felix wasn’t perfect Tuesday night against Cleveland. He was still dominant.
Hernandez allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings in the first start following his perfect game, Jesus Montero hit a three-run homer in Seattle’s four-run seventh inning, and the Mariners won their seventh straight beating the Indians 5-1.
“It was pretty amazing,” Hernandez said. “This was something special.”
Greeted by a crowd of more than 39,000, most of them in yellow shirts with the words “King of Perfection” honoring his perfect game, Hernandez (12-5) gave up a leadoff single to Jason Kipnis on an 0-2 pitch. That ended any dream of a second straight perfecto from the Mariners ace, but the bigger task all along was keeping the Mariners’ winning ways going.
Seattle has won 14 of 15 at home and Hernandez improved to 8-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his last 13 starts. He left to a long ovation with two outs in the eighth after throwing 105 pitches. It was the final moment in a night where nearly every move Hernandez made was greeted by noise.
He allowed seven hits and struck out five and continued a brilliant two months of pitching. His last loss came on June 12 in San Diego.
“None of this gets to his head, all this excitement,” Seattle catcher John Jaso said. “He’s just the kind of guy that is going to enjoy it.”
Hernandez talked earlier this week of needing to move on from his 27-up, 27-down gem last week against Tampa Bay, just the 23rd perfect game in major league history. It was hard to forget with 34,000 blinding yellow shirts handed out to fans. Seattle manager Eric Wedge said he felt it was a night to celebrate Hernandez’s accomplishment, but didn’t want the emotions of the night to overtake his pitcher.
“To no one’s surprise he handled it beautifully,” Wedge said.
Every move Hernandez made was accompanied by raucous applause, whether it was walking out to the bullpen for his pregame routine or when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup.
Hernandez got ahead of Kipnis 0-2 on two fastballs, but a third-pitch curveball was dribbled through the infield and under the glove of diving first baseman Justin Smoak. He allowed two hits in the first along with Shin-Soo Choo’s broken-bat single, but got Carlos Santana to hit into a double play to get out of the inning.
Hernandez later got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into a double play to get out of the third and a tremendous diving catch by Trayvon Robinson robbed Casey Kotchman of extra bases in the fifth. Kotchman got even in the seventh when his double play ground ball took a bad hop over shortstop Brendan Ryan’s glove to score Santana and tie the game at 1. The Indians then botched a squeeze play with Michael Bradley getting tagged out in the rundown and Hernandez struck out Brett Lillibridge to end the inning.
It was the first run Hernandez had allowed in 17 innings. He had retired 11 straight before Santana singled with one out in the seventh.
“He’s thrown the ball extremely well the last two months,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He’s phenomenal.”
Seattle did nothing against Cleveland starter Roberto Hernandez (0-2) until the fifth inning when Eric Thames drove a 0-1 pitch into the seats in right field for his sixth homer of the season and his second in as many games. It was Seattle’s first hit and just their second baserunner off the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
Michael Saunders started the seventh by walking on four pitches and Kyle Seager bounced a single through the right side to put runners at the corners with no outs. Jaso then doubled to deep left-center to score Saunders and knock Roberto Hernandez from the game. Esmil Rogers took over in relief and was greeted by a 438-foot shot from Montero off the facade of the second-deck in left field.
“The ball took off so quick,” Montero said. “I was like, ‘Where’s the ball?’ And the ball was in the stands.”
Notes: Hernandez’s eight-game winning streak is the second-longest of his career. … Tuesday’s crowd of 39,204 was the third-largest of the season and just the 11th time in 62 home games the Mariners have drawn more than 30,000. … Cleveland RHP Josh Tomlin will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday in Southern California. He will miss the rest of this season and likely much of 2013.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.