Liam Hendriks pitches best game of career, but edged by King Felix
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Liam Hendriks pitched the best game of his major league career on Monday night, but it wasn't enough to beat Felix Hernandez, as the Minnesota Twins dropped Game 1 of a four-game series 1-0 to the Seattle Mariners.
It was supposed to be the King Felix Show at Target Field on Monday night, but in an unexpected turn of events, Hernandez was matched zero-for-zero by Hendriks through seven innings.
Hendriks, however, blinked first in the eighth inning, allowing a lead-off, opposite-field home run to Eric Thames that put the Mariners up 1-0. That was all the run support Hernandez -- perhaps the hottest pitcher in baseball these days -- would need.
Hernandez went all nine for his league-leading fifth shutout of the season, striking out five while walking one and allowing only five hits.
Hendriks also went all nine, allowing only one run on three hits and three walks while striking out six. The right-hander previously had not pitched more than 6 1/3 innings in any game for the Twins this season.
"You know it's going to be tough going up against Felix Hernandez," said Hendriks, who is still searching for his first career major league victory after 14 winless starts.
"I think that was probably the best fastball I threw (Thames) all day. The rest of them he was swinging at some of them off the plate and up, and it was probably the best one I threw him. I didn't know where it went, and then I looked up and I thought (left fielder Ryan) Doumit had it, and it just kept going and going."
The Twins have been waiting for Hendriks to translate his success at Triple-A, where he posted a 2.20 ERA in 16 starts this season.
When asked if Monday's performance was more indicative of how he'd been throwing in Rochester, Hendriks said, "Pretty much, yeah, just getting ahead and staying ahead and throwing my stuff for strikes, which is nice to do.
"I finally figured out what I figured out the last batter of last game what I was doing, and had a good bullpen session with Andy, and I seemed to feel comfortable on the mound tonight, which was nice. ...
"I can even get better from this. I wasn't quite throwing as hard as I can. I mean, I was giving it all I got, but it's one of those things, I just need to go out there and keep doing this and try and keep putting zeroes on the board."
It's worth noting that the Mariners entered Monday's game with the lowest team OPS (.662) in baseball, but considering Hendriks entered the night with a 7.06 ERA, his outing was a giant step in the right direction.
"We all are trying to get him his first MLB victory," said Ben Revere, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout against Hernandez. "He can't catch a break sometimes. But he's going to eventually get it. ... He's such a great pitcher."
Twins general manager Terry Ryan provided some foreshadowing before the game when he said, referring to his often-streaky offense, "We seem to get the table set, but we just don't get people in."
The Twins blew their golden opportunity in the bottom of the seventh.
Justin Morneau led off the frame with a triple to deep right-center, but Doumit and Trevor Plouffe both grounded out with the infield playing in, and Jamey Carroll bounced out to end the inning.
"We get a lead-off triple and I think four pitches later we're in the dugout," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So we've got to get a better pitch, got to get something up in the air. We weren't able to do it. You tip your hat to the guy on the other side. That's why he's one of the best, if not the best in the league."
832: Career games caught by Joe Mauer, passing Earl Battey for first on the Twins' all-time list.
1: Slick double play turn by shortstop Pedro Florimon to end the sixth inning. Florimon, screened by second base umpires Doug Eddings, fielded a short-hop grounder and flipped to second baseman Jamey Carroll while falling down to start the 6-4-3 turn.
RHP Matt Capps (shoulder) has resumed playing catch. There's still a chance he could rejoin the Twins in September.
RHP P.J. Walters (shoulder) will make one more rehab start for Triple-A Rochester before perhaps being recalled in September.
Tuesday: vs. Mariners, 7:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (10-5, 3.04) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3, 3.64)
Wednesday: vs. Mariners, 7:10 p.m. RHP Sam Deduno (4-2, 4.24) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (13-8, 3.75)
Thursday: vs. Mariners, 12:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (3-9, 5.28) vs. RHP Blake Beavan (8-8, 5.10)