SEATTLE (AP) - Of all the batters for Felix Hernandez to make a mistake against, it had to be Adrian Beltre.
It was bad enough that Beltre’s two-run homer was his 27th of the season and the deciding blow in the Texas Rangers’ 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
What makes it worse is all the smack talk Hernandez will have to hear from his good friend and former teammate.
“(It’s) always, always going to be like that,” Hernandez said of the trash he talks with his friend. “He got me with his bat today and we’ll get another one in Texas.”
Hernandez and Beltre became part of the attraction Sunday when Hernandez missed with a two-strike, two-out fastball in the fourth inning and Beltre lined a two-run shot into the bullpen in left field. By the time Beltre rounded third, he was already jabbering with Hernandez as the two friends traded barbs.
“It was nice because he’s always talking smack to me. We talk smack back and forth and he got my number,” Beltre said. “I told him all I wanted to do was take him deep and I did it so I was yapping back to him.”
While the Hernandez-Beltre battle became a little side story to Sunday’s loss, the bigger concern is Seattle’s continuing issues with striking out. Texas starter Matt Harrison (13-9) struck out a career-high nine and the Mariners finished with 14 strikeouts on the day.
Seattle batters have struck out at least nine times in nine of the past 10 games and over those 10 games, Seattle has struck out 120 times.
The Mariners currently have 1,201 strikeouts for the season, setting a new team record. It’s also the 14th most in American League history and if the problem doesn’t change over the final 10 games, the Mariners could be climbing much higher on the all-time list.
“We’re facing playoff teams right now, some tough teams, playing their ‘A’ game every time out. Not to say we’re not, but they have their best guys going and they are doing everything they can to win so they are going to be tough,” Seattle’s Mike Carp said. “It’s good for us _ not to struggle but to remember it going into next year. We’ll face these guys and not let them beat us like that.”
In his final home start of the season, Hernandez (14-13) wasn’t his sharpest. The reigning AL Cy Young winner gave up nine hits and struck out five, but lost his second straight decision.
He also lost for the third time to Texas with one more start against the Rangers coming next weekend.
“They have a pretty good lineup and you’ve got to respect that. You have to make good pitches,” Hernandez said. “You don’t get a break in any spot from first to ninth. They can hit _ hit homers _ so you have to make good pitches.”
Only once did Seattle advance a runner to third base against Harrison and that came in the seventh inning. Harrison left with two outs after Ichiro Suzuki’s infield hit glanced off Harrison’s glove and Elvis Andrus couldn’t get to it in time. Suzuki’s 173rd hit of the season loaded the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who had doubled off Harrison in his previous at bat.
Instead of risking it, Rangers manager Ron Washington went to Koji Uehara. The move worked as Uehara struck out Rodriguez to end Seattle’s best scoring chance.
Carp nearly ended the shutout in the eighth, but Josh Hamilton robbed him of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall in left to end the inning. Neftali Feliz then picked up his 28th save in 34 chances, pitching the ninth and adding a couple of more strikeouts to the ledger.
“Going up against that guy you know it’s always tough,” Harrison said of Hernandez. “You just try and keep the game close and make your pitches and try and stay in the game as long as possible.”
It was an important victory for Texas, remaining 4 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West after the Angels beat Baltimore earlier Sunday.
Notes: Texas is 12-4 vs. Seattle this season with three games left in Texas next weekend. … Seattle 3B Chone Figgins will not play again this season with a hip flexor injury, manager Eric Wedge said. … Seattle will make a detour to Cleveland for a makeup game on Monday. The game was one of two makeups after the Indians and Mariners were rained out on May 14 and 15. Seattle then opens a three-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday. … LHP Charlie Furbush will start for Seattle against the Indians. He is just 2-6 in eight starts since coming over in late July in a trade with Detroit. … Sunday was the first time since July 31 most of a Mariners game has been played with the Safeco Field roof closed. It was closed in the top of the first inning on Sunday after closing in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game.
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