Felix Extends Scoreless Innings Streak

TACOMA - Felix Hernandez made his 13th start of the season for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday afternoon, extending his scoreless innings streak to 15.1 as the Rainers defeated the Portland Beavers 2-0.

"I sound like a broken record," said Rainiers skipper Dan Rohn said of his ace right-hander. "But he gets the job done."

Hernandez fought off a tough second inning to cruise to his eighth win of the year, but after an easy six-pitch first inning it wasn't easy for Hernandez, who allowed just three hits, all in third inning. The future ace walked four batters to get himself into several jams.

"He never ceases to amaze me at times," said Rohn. "He gets himself into jams and then gets himself out of it. The kid has got a lot of moxie and a lot of heart."

The 19-year-old phenom felt better about this outing than the 5.1 shutout innings he tossed at Las Vegas in his last start on June 9.

"A lot better this time," said Hernandez. "I had better command today."

Hernandez's 95-pitch effort included seven strikeouts and induced nine ground ball outs, something his fastball had a lot to do with.

"I threw my two-seamer a lot," Hernandez said. "More fastballs, today."

The King's two-seamer dives down with sinking action and results in hitters topping the ball – exactly what Hernandez tries to do to every hitter.

"Ground balls, ground balls," said Hernandez. "I don't use it for strikeouts."

The two-seam heater impresses many onlookers and even gets a rise out of his own manager.

"That thing takes a serious dive." said Rohn after his Rainiers won their seventh in a row and 17th game in 24 tries. "I'm thinking ‘geez, the sink on that pitch is unreal.' "

The game remained scoreless for five innings, forcing Hernandez to compete pitch-for-pitch with Beavers righty Tim Redding, he of 18 big-league starts with the Houston Astros.

Redding went four innings and was replaced by former Mariner farmhand Brian Sweeney, who would eventually get the loss.

The goose eggs remained until catcher Ryan Christianson hit a two-run home run to right-center field with Chris Snelling aboard, handing the Rainiers a 2-0 lead.

"I think it was a cutter," said Christianson of the pitch he hit 400 feet. "I was sitting offspeed, because I have faced him a few times, I think it was something offpseed, it wasn't his fastball."

Christianson's bomb came after Hernandez finished his outing with an easy top of the sixth, including his final two punchouts of the game.

"Felix threw well," said Christianson. "He didn't have his best stuff. He lost a little command in parts of the game but he gained it back and made big pitches when he had to."

Christianson and Hernandez are still learning each other's games but are working well together and the 24-year-old backstop knows how good the King can be.

"Felix is Felix," said Christianson of Hernandez's effort. "Felix on a bad day is still great. He has three plus pitches and is not a one-dimensional pitcher."

Hernandez is not being coached into pitching any certain way. The organization is allowing him to work the game as he and his catcher sees fit.

"We're allowing him to pitch his game," said Rohn. "We don't have a set pattern of what he's trying to do. He's got to learn under fire."

While Hernandez certainly has more to learn in the minors, his numbers suggest that he's doing pretty well in Triple-A Tacoma.

Hernandez leads the league in ERA at 2.32 and now has tallied 78 strikeouts in 73.2 innings. The Pacific Coast League is hitting just .205 off the M's prize prospect.

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