BOSTON - Felix Hernandez had a career record of 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in four starts at Fenway Park, including a pair of shutouts.
So if anyone would seem to be a sure bet to secure the Mariners’ sixth win in a row and a rare sweep of a road trip, it would be Hernandez pitching in a place that brings out the best in him.
And for seven innings, he gave the Mariners all he could. But it wasn’t enough. He left with the game tied and got a no-decision Sunday.
Was it as dominant as previous Fenway outings? No. But it was still pretty good.
Hernandez pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out 10 and walking one.
“They made him work early, but he took control of the ballgame and was able to give us seven strong innings,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
The first inning was a grinder for Hernandez. He gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. After striking out David Ortiz, he walked J.D. Drew to load the bases but rallied to strike out Jed Lowrie.
“He’s real good at righting himself,” Wedge said.
He escaped with no damage on the scoreboard, but the 27 pitches he threw took a toll.
“It was just controlling my sinker more,” he said. “In the first inning, it was breaking too much. (Catcher Miguel) Olivo said I’m going to sit in the middle of the plate and just throw it because it’s going to move anyway. After that, it was fine.”
Hernandez also ran into trouble in the third. He gave up singles to Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia to start the inning. He struck out Gonzalez, but Ortiz hit a 1-2 pitch and drove it high off the Green Monster to score both runners.
“It was a fastball away,” Hernandez said. “I should have stayed with a two-seamer. I threw the four-seamer and it stayed right there.”
When Hernandez got out of the inning, he walked by Ortiz and the two exchanged some friendly banter.
“I told him, ‘I should have thrown you a two-seamer,’ ” he said.
After the Ortiz double, Hernandez allowed one more hits and struck out six of the next 15 batters he faced.
Getting 10 strikeouts against a loaded Red Sox lineup is an accomplishment. So, how did he do it?
“I don’t know,” he said. “They swing and they miss and they strike out. I had command of my secondary pitches – they were working pretty good. My slider was good today and (so was) my changeup and after the first inning, I had all my pitches. I was painting the outside corners.”
Even though he didn’t figure in the decision and the Mariners lost, Hernandez was encouraged by the 5-1 road trip.
“Every day we are getting better and better,” he said.
NO REST FOR OLIVO
Wedge said Thursday he would rest Olivo during the weekend series against the Red Sox. When the weekend was over, Olivo had played every inning of the series and every game of the six-game trip.
“I guess I lied to you guys,” Wedge said with a smile before the game. “Well, with the off day last Monday, and the off day (today) – and he wanted it and he earned it – so he’s back in there. We’ll give him tomorrow off. He’s playing with energy and life, and the scheduled off days allowed it.”
Olivo showed no signs of fatigue, going 1-for-4. Over the road trip, he hit .375 (9-for-24) with two homers, four RBI and eight runs scored.
Milton Bradley, who was ejected from Saturday’s game, was out of the lineup with Ryan Langerhans batting third and playing left field.
“I was either going to give Milton (Saturday) night or (Sunday) off and it works out better (Sunday) with the off day being (today),” Wedge said. “We want to keep on top of him physically. We got him through April healthy.”
Wedge went with Luis Rodriguez over Brendan Ryan at shortstop. It was a move that was easy to predict. Ryan has been struggling at the plate and he failed to hit a ball out of the infield Saturday. Ryan has two hits in his past 24 at-bats with seven strikeouts. His average has dropped to .184 and his on-base percentage is .224.
“It’s a good day to get him in there and give Ryan a break for a couple days,” Wedge said. “He’s pressing at the plate, as you can all see. As I like to say, ‘It’s a good day for him to watch a big league ballgame.’ ”
How long has Tim Wakefield been pitching for the Red Sox? Wedge caught him in spring training the first year Wakefield was with the Red Sox in 1995.
“He’s been here about 30 years now,” Wedge joked. “Wake’s a great guy. It was early on in his knuckleball career. He has just a tremendous feel for it. He could throw it slow or be more aggressive with it. He has a good feel for pitching in general. It was a challenge, but it was fun.”
Wedge wore the special, larger catcher’s glove that Wakefield provided and even that didn’t make it easier.
“Yes, it’s as hard as it looks,” he said.