Wilson can't match Felix in pitchers' duel
Pujols drives in a run in ninth to prevent shutout
SEATTLE -- C.J. Wilson made only two mistakes, both of them to the Mariners' No. 8-hitting catcher, but the margin for error was almost non-existent at Safeco Field on Wednesday night, because Felix Hernandez was pitching, and that's just the way it typically goes when one of the best pitchers in the game is on the other side.
The Angels have known this for a while now.
"He's certainly evolved from a young guy who had a terrific fastball and breaking ball when he was 20 to a guy who has put everything together," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after his team's 3-1 loss, their sixth in eight games against the Mariners. "He changes speeds well, he pounds that zone, he has a great arm, and he pitched a good game tonight."
So good that the Angels (29-23) had only four baserunners and zero runs through the first eight innings.
So good that Mike Zunino's two-out, two-run single in the second and solo homer in the eighth were enough to give Wilson his fourth loss, after the Angels' left-hander gave up just three runs in 7 2/3 innings to put his ERA at 3.05.
"I don't think you can be frustrated when you give up a home run and two walks," Wilson said. "It's not like I threw a no-hitter and lost, so that's on me. Felix was on his game tonight."
Hernandez finished giving up only one run in 8 2/3 innings, falling short of a complete game when Mike Trout hit a two-out single in the ninth, advanced to second on defensive indifference and scored on Albert Pujols' double, paving the way for Fernando Rodney to record the final out.
The 28-year-old right-hander gave up four hits, walked two batters, struck out nine and hit 95 mph with his fastball in the early innings -- a trend from the last couple of outings, and the hardest he's thrown in a couple of years.
"I've still got it," Hernandez said. "I've still got it."
Hernandez is 7-1 with a 2.57 ERA, making yet another run toward his second American League Cy Young Award. He's won each of his last four starts, posting a 2.30 ERA and striking out 30 batters in 31 1/3 innings during that run. He knew it'd be his night as early as the first inning, "when I was throwing my fastball for strikes. After that, I was just pounding the strike zone."
"He's got great stuff," former teammate Raul Ibanez said. "He's got four great pitches and he's got command. He's not just throwing. He's pitching. He knows what he's doing. He's a smart pitcher with great stuff and good command."
There was a time when it looked as if the Angels had Hernandez's number. That was in 2012, when for some reason he posted a 6.25 ERA in 31 2/3 innings against one of his division rivals. In 45 2/3 innings since, Hernandez's ERA is 2.37 against the Angels.
"He's always tough, even if we were scoring some runs off him," Scioscia said. "You have to dig for your pitches and hit the mistakes he makes. Tonight, any mistakes he made we didn't get a hold of. We fouled them back or didn't get a good swing on them. His stuff doesn't look like it's changed much. We've gotten him in the past, and he's pitched well against us. You can find games on both sides of the ledger."