4/23/09 - Felix Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite the Mariners netting three errors on defense, having a catcher playing 1st base, and Yuni Betancourt still shading 3rd base instead of playing short stop, the Mariners won the April afternoon game, 1-0.
In the first inning, Hernandez pitched through the order in three outs, striking out BJ Upton looking and Evan Longoria swinging. The bottom of the first was led off by Ichiro hitting a lead-off homer to give the Mariners a one run lead.
The next few innings featured some scary moments for Mariners' fans as Hernandez began limping after a play at 1st base. Later on, he caught a Carl Crawford grounder, which skipped through the middle, with his bare hand. Despite the high leverage situations, Hernandez pitched with a poise that kept Rays batters off balance, holding them to four hits in the seven innings.
Hernandez, for not being totally healthy, threw pitches that were full of movement. Hernandez did get high in the pitch count, trying to nab too many corners, mixing in three walks in the game.
Rays starter James Shields almost equaled Hernandez's performance, cruising through eight innings only giving up the Ichiro home run. Mariners setup man David Aardsma threw two prolific strikeouts in the eighth and almost got a third, but settled for a groundball out. The top of the ninth was a nail-biting situation, but closer Brandon Morrow was able to clamp down and get three outs around a walk and a wild pitch.
The Mariners move to 10-6 and continue to lead the AL West. This team has potential to take a weak division, especially with the Angels missing 4/5th's of their rotation. If Seattle can get their 1st basemen healthy, replace Yuni with Ronny Cedeno (or at least get him positioned better), figure out how to get Carlos Silva throwing something different than a straight fastball, there's more than a few things to be excited about.