SEATTLE (AP) - There was an extra twinge of disappointment for Felix Hernandez as he watched Trevor Plouffe’s line drive fall into the grass of right field for a base hit.
With how well he was pitching, Seattle’s ace knew there was the chance at something special Friday night.
“I had the stuff to throw a perfect game,” Hernandez said. “But it didn’t happen.”
Hernandez settled for a five-hitter and his first complete game victory since August 2012, as the Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins 2-0.
Nelson Cruz gave Hernandez all the offense he needed with a major-league-leading ninth home run. Cruz’s shot off Minnesota starter Phil Hughes (0-4) traveled 459 feet, according to date from Major League Baseball, into the second deck above the bullpens in left field.
But while Cruz provided a jolt, it was Hernandez that was dominant. He retired the first 14 batters before Plouffe’s single with two outs in the fifth. He struck out nine, threw 102 pitches and got out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings.
It was Hernandez’s first complete game win since beating Minnesota on Aug. 27, 2012, when he also allowed five hits. Hernandez is now 3-0 for the second straight season and the third time in his career.
“It’s been a while so it feels really good,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez was outstanding from the start, with a breaking ball that had more snap than any other time this season and a fastball he was able to spot around the strike zone.
Hernandez needed just 38 pitches to cruise through the first 12 batters, half striking out. He struck out Brian Dozier to start the fifth and got Kennys Vargas to ground out before Plouffe got the Twins’ first hit on a 1-1 pitch.
An inning later, Hernandez found himself in a major jam. Kurt Suzuki reached on an infield single deep in the hole at short and advanced to second when Brad Miller’s throw went out of play. Jordan Schafer - robbed of a hit in the third on a great defensive play by Robinson Cano and Morrison - reached on an infield single, putting runners at the corners with no outs.
Danny Santana hit a fly ball to center field but wasn’t deep enough for Suzuki to tag and score. Torii Hunter struck out and Joe Mauer grounded out to first to end the threat.
Minnesota put runners at the corners with two outs in the seventh, but Hernandez got a fly out from Suzuki to end the inning.
“Just a great job of commanding the zone, commanding the tempo, keeping guys off balance just enough to make all of his stuff work,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Hernandez was at 91 pitches after the eighth and came back for the ninth to a standing ovation. He got Mauer to ground out, Dozier to fly out and Vargas on a comebacker to close out the victory.
“He can throw any pitch in any count wherever he wants and they are all plus pitches,” Schafer said. “Thank God every guy you face isn’t like that.”
Logan Morrison added his first home run of the season - his first extra-base hit and first RBI of the season as well - with a solo shot to right-center field leading off the fifth.
Morrison had not gotten much luck early in the season at the plate.
“I was more of like ‘finally it went over the fence,’” Morrison said. “I didn’t feel like I was due. You don’t think about that as a player.”
Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco’s scheduled rehab start at Single-A Cedar Rapids was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday. He’s missed 12 games with right elbow inflammation.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day DL with a right lat strain before Friday’s game. Iwakuma had been feeling fatigue since his previous start on Monday against Houston and didn’t feel any better after a bullpen session on Friday.
Twins: Trevor May (1-1) will make his third start after picking up his first win of the season last time out. It’ll be a special start for the Kelso, Washington native, his first at Safeco Field as a professional. He pitched at Safeco in a high school playoff game.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton starts for Seattle looking to rebound after lasting just 2 2-3 innings and giving up seven earned runs in his last start.
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