SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez's season can't be fully measured by his so-so win-loss record. It seems his value this year as the Seattle Mariners' ace is how well he "holds" victories.
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Hernandez held the Los Angeles Angels to just three hits and no runs through seven innings, walking three and striking out eight. Then, as soon as he left, his teammates rallied for a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.Adam Moore's broken-bat RBI single highlighted a three-run rally in the eighth inning for the comeback victory.Brandon League (9-6), who took over for Hernandez in the eighth, earned the victory. David Aardsma worked the ninth to pick up his 26th save in 31 opportunities.League leads the league in relief wins, no doubt borrowing a few from Hernandez's usual allotment.Hernandez has the third-lowest run-support average in the American League at 3.44 runs per outing.He has the second best ERA (2.38) and is tied for first in strikeouts, reaching 200 for the second year in a row. One reason he has a .500 record (10-10) is because in his 10 losses, his teammates have scored a combined 10 runs for him.They couldn't score any for him when he was on the mound Tuesday, giving him yet another hold."We win. That's the most important thing," Hernandez said with a smile. "I do my part. Give us a chance to win. That's what we did. We win the game."Dan Haren matched Hernandez, going seven innings, allowing seven hits, walking two and striking out eight."He is one of the best. It's not the first time I've matched against him," Haren said of Hernandez. "He's got everything, a 95 mph sinker can get the double play when he needs to, good slider, curveball, changeup. I knew it was going to be a tight, real close. I don't know if I'd want to hit off him."We made him work, too. He had 70 pitches through four innings, so it wasn't a cakewalk for him."The Angels had a couple of early chances.In the second, they loaded the bases with one out on a couple of singles and a walk. But Jeff Mathis bounced into a double play."I'm thinking, threw a sinker, make sure you get a double play," Hernandez said.With one out in the third, Alberto Callaspo singled. He stole second, then continued to third when the ball bounced off Chone Figgins' glove for an error.Howard Kendrick attempted a squeeze bunt on the first pitch but fouled it off. He finally hit a two-hopper to third, and Jose Lopez threw Callaspo out at home."We had him on the ropes a couple times and couldn't get some early runs, which could have made a difference," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He really settled down and made some pitches when he had to."The Mariners have erred on the side of caution with Hernandez's work load this season. He was still strong through seven, but manager Daren Brown lifted him."He threw 104 pitches tonight and he was coming off 120 his last start," Brown said. "Going along with what we said the last month and a half of the season, taking care of him a bit, I thought that was enough. He did his job, and I thought he was outstanding."But Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead in the eighth when Kendrick's double scored Callaspo. It was just the third run allowed by League since the All-Star break in a span of 24 2/3 innings.The Mariners faced reliever Kevin Jepsen (2-4), coming in for Haren. Jepsen walked Russell Branyan with one out. Matt Tuiasosopo pinch ran for him.Lopez followed with a single and Casey Kotchman walked. Michael Saunders hit a sac-fly to right to score Tuiasosopo.Moore then hit his looping game-winner just over the reach of second baseman Kendrick."It was especially big after giving up one run in the top of the eighth coming right back and scoring three in the bottom of the inning," Brown said. "It was a nice at-bat from Saunders for the sac-fly and a big two-strike hit from Adam Moore. It cost him a bat but I think he'll take that trade every time."Josh Wilson followed with an RBI single to score Kotchman."Felix did a great job. He got us in and out of the dugout quick," Saunders said. "Once again, he pitched a great game. That's him. He's consistent. Too bad we weren't able to give him some runs earlier. He deserves the win tonight."But he kept us in the game. He did his job. We did our job -- a little later than we'd like."
The game opened with a line drive from Callaspo directly at Hernandez's head. He twisted away as he fell, instinctively putting his glove up. He somehow caught the ball. ... RH Shawn Kelley, on the disabled list since June 16, will have surgery on his ailing right elbow Wednesday. It's uncertain what doctors will find. "Hopefully, it's something that they can fix and have him ready by spring training," Mariners manager Daren Brown said. Angels RH Ervin Santana has won 14 games this season and is among the leaders in complete games (three). Last season, he was 8-8 with a 5.01 ERA. "Compared to last year his consistency is better, his command is better, his ability to repeat pitches. Everything is at a higher level," Scioscia said. "Maybe not a lot of attention has been paid as far as fans or media but as far as we've seen and other people, players and managers we talked to, they've seen how well he's throwing the ball."