DETROIT (AP) - Felix Hernandez thought he was in trouble warming up Tuesday night.
The Seattle Mariners ace was sailing pitches all over the Comerica Park bullpen as he prepared to face the Detroit Tigers.
``I don't think I threw a single strike out there,' he said. ``I mean it. I couldn't throw anything over the plate.'
Hernandez was facing his favorite victims - the Tigers. He allowed two earned runs in six innings to beat them 7-3 Tuesday night and move to 7-0 in his last eight starts against Detroit, a streak dating back to 2007.
``I didn't have my good stuff, but I just battled and battled and battled,' he said. ``The guys got some runs for me, and we won the game.'
One of those runs came on the strangest homers in Comerica Park's 12 seasons - a play that will be on every blooper reel.
After Hernandez allowed an unearned run in the first, Miguel Olivo led off the second with a routine-looking fly to deep left that Ryan Raburn struggled to find in the sun. While still short of the warning track, Raburn lunged back, only to deflect the ball high into the air and into the Tigers' bullpen for Olivo's first homer of the season.
After the inning, Tigers starter Phil Coke tried to comfort his left fielder.
``What can you say about that other than it is a complete fluke?' Coke said. ``It's not like there was any lack of effort. The ball was hit to the only place on the field where there was any sun, and he tried to find it. It hits his glove and bounces off the back wall of the bullpen. There's nothing you can do about a play like that.'
Coke was routed by Seattle for the second time in a week, giving up seven runs in 4 1-3 innings. In his two starts against the Mariners, Coke is 0-2 with 13 runs allowed in eight innings.
``I couldn't care less that both games were against them,' he said. ``Last time, I couldn't throw a strike, and this time I was throwing strikes - even more than I got called. Put me out there against them a third time, and this isn't going to happen again.'
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, though, thought Coke's control was the problem again.
``He didn't have command of his fastball, and when he made mistakes, they hit them hard,' Leyland said. ``He's got to have the fastball under command.'
In the fourth, Justin Smoak hit Seattle's second homer to left - this one clearing Raburn and the fence - for a 3-1 lead. Detroit, though, tied it in the bottom of the inning on Brandon Inge's two-run double.
As an ominous thunderhead passed south of the stadium, the Mariners went up 7-3 with four runs in the fifth.
Ichiro Suzuki started the scoring with an RBI single, and Chone Figgins followed with a two-run double. Coke left the game after hitting Milton Bradley with a pitch, but reliever Brayan Villarreal threw away a pickoff attempt to allow Figgins to score Seattle's seventh run.
Hernandez left the game after six innings and 102 pitches, but Seattle's bullpen only allowed one hit over the last three scoreless innings.
``Felix threw 126 pitches the last time, so we wanted to keep him right around 100 tonight,' Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. ``He did his job, and then David Pauley gave us two great innings.'
NOTES: Smoak rejoined the team in Detroit after spending time on the bereavement list due to a death in his family. Wedge said that Smoak asked to go right back into the lineup. ``This had to be a special memory for him - to come back like this and hit a homer. I was glad to see him get that,' Wedge said. ... The edge of a storm did hit the stadium at the end of the sixth inning, causing most fans to scamper for cover, but the rain lasted less than two minutes.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved