Hendriks the hard-luck loser against King Felix
No matter what Liam Hendriks does on the mound, he can't seem to come up with that elusive first career victory.
If he keeps pitching the way he did against Felix Hernandez on Monday night, that milestone should be right around the corner.
Hendriks struck out six and gave up just three hits in nine dazzling innings, but one was a homer to Eric Thames that lifted the Seattle Mariners to a 1-0 victory.
Thanks to King Felix's brilliance - five strikeouts, five hits in nine dominant innings - Hendriks was left searching yet again. He fell to 0-7 on the season and 0-9 for his career when Thames' homer just barely reached the flowerbed in left field in the eighth inning.
"You know it's going to be tough going up against Felix Hernandez anytime you go out there against him," Hendriks said with a shrug. "He pitched pretty well and got into some spots. It's always hard when you've got a guy who can locate pitches like he does."
Hernandez (13-5), who picked up his 23rd career complete game and ninth shutout, hasn't lost a decision since June 12. He is 4-0 in 1-0 games this season, becoming just the third pitcher since 1969 to be that successful in 1-0 ballgames.
"I'm so upset," said Ben Revere, who went 0 for 4. "We all are trying to get him his first MLB victory. It just doesn't seem like he can catch a break. But he's going to eventually get it."
Joe Mauer had a single and Justin Morneau had a triple for the Twins, who have lost 14 of their last 17.
Hernandez's brilliance came as no surprise. The Venezuelan has long been one of baseball's best pitchers, and he's on a roll these days even by his sterling standards. In his last 14 starts, he is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 100 strikeouts, 17 walks and a perfect game. He's allowed one earned run or fewer a staggering 16 times in 27 starts this season.
To watch Hendriks, a 23-year-old Aussie who hasn't picked up a win in 14 career starts and has been sent back down to Triple-A twice this season, match King Felix pitch for pitch through seven innings was something entirely unexpected. He needed just 68 pitches to get through six innings against the free-swinging Mariners before Thames got him in the eighth.
"It's huge," Hendriks said of the confidence he gained from the outing. "I know I can go out there and I know I can compete and I know I can even get better from here."
The Twins nearly got to King Felix a couple of times, first on a deep drive from Trevor Plouffe in the third inning that center fielder Franklin Gutierrez had to leap to catch at the wall.
Mauer broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single in the fourth and Morneau led off the seventh with a triple. But Hernandez steeled himself and got Ryan Doumit, Plouffe and Jamey Carroll to ground out and keep Minnesota scoreless.
"We had a leadoff triple and four pitches later we were in the dugout," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Got to get a better pitch, got to get something up in the air and 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."
Thames led off the eighth inning with a homer that barely reached the flower bed beyond the left field wall, and that proved to be all Hernandez needed.
"That was probably the best fastball I threw him all day," Hendriks said.
NOTES: Mauer passed Earl Battey for the most games caught by a Twins player, catching his 832nd on Monday night. "It's a pretty neat little deal," Mauer said. ... Twins CF Denard Span made a great play in the ninth, unleashing a strong on a pop fly from Jesus Montero to double up Gutierrez at third base. ... LHP Scott Diamond (10-5, 3.04) will start on Tuesday for the Twins against RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3, 3.64). Diamond is appealing a six-game suspension handed down after he was ejected from his last start for throwing behind Texas OF Josh Hamilton. Iwakuma is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his last seven starts.
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