CHICAGO -- Felix Hernandez is starting to look more like, well, Felix Hernandez these days. And it couldn't come at a better time for the Mariners as they rode their ace to a 3-1 victory over Chris Sale and the White Sox in a battle of two of the American League's top hurlers on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Hernandez allowed just a solo home run by Todd Frazier in the seventh over 7 1/3 innings, scattering eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts. The 30-year-old is 5-0 with a 3.46 ERA in eight starts since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list with a strained calf.
Sale struck out 14 in an outstanding complete-game effort, and he retired the last 16 batters he faced, but took the loss as he allowed five hits and three runs over the first four frames in falling to 15-7 with a 3.14 ERA. He's now 4-1 with a 2.44 ERA in seven career starts against Seattle.
"I don't know what happened," Hernandez said. "Everything went black and I couldn't feel my legs and felt a little dizzy, but after that it went away. I was a little bit [hyped]. I knew I was facing Sale and he's a great pitcher. It's going to be a tough game. The bullpen was tired and I needed to go deep in the game. But I'm feeling better and better every time I go out there."
Hernandez received a huge boost from rookie closer Edwin Diaz, who entered with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and slammed the door on four pitches, including a bare-hand play by third baseman Shawn O'Malley on a slow roller by Tim Anderson to get a force at home for the second out. The hard-throwing 22-year-old then struck out the side in the ninth to record his 11th straight save.
"What a play by Shawn O'Malley," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "That was really the play of the game, to come in on that and bare-hand it, bang-bang."
"That's a tough play for a guy coming in to be able to get it and get the angle to be able to throw it home," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "To barehand it and do that, you know he doesn't have a chance at first base. Just a great play that gets them out of that one."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Guti solves Sale: The White Sox southpaw zipped through the Mariners' first five batters without a ball getting out of the infield, but Franklin Gutierrez changed all that by driving a 1-1 fastball over the fence in right field in the second inning to get Seattle on the board. Gutierrez snapped an 0-for-15 slump with the opposite-field blast, which was his 12th homer of the season.
"I was excited to see that," said Servais. "Any time Guti contributes offensively it's usually a good sign for us. We got him out of the two-hole and slid him down the lineup a little and he looked comfortable in all his at-bats, even though Sale was really tough. He was on the ball." More >
Nearly historic: Sale struck out six straight, from the first batter in the sixth, Robinson Cano, through the last batter in the seventh, O'Malley. The franchise record for consecutive strikeouts in a game stands at seven, set by Joe Cowley at Texas on May 28, 1986, but Sale's streak ended on Ketel Marte's ground out to start the eighth. Sale's 14 strikeouts are one short of a career high. The lefty ace now has seven career 14-plus strikeout games.
"After the fourth I found a good cruising speed. I had good tempo. I felt really good with my arm slot," Sale said. "Everything was working really well. Omar [Narvaez] back there was really in sync tonight. Him and I were going back and forth, even between innings in the dugout. He got me through that one pretty good tonight." More >
You just never know: Sale is normally death to left-handed hitters. And Mariners first baseman Adam Lind is normally a platoon lefty who sits against southpaws, given his poor history against them. But with Dae-Ho Lee sent to the Minors to rediscover his swing, Lind is Seattle's only regular first baseman for now and he found himself with the unenviable task of facing Sale. So, naturally, Lind laced an RBI double into the left-center gap in the fourth to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead. Sale fed Lind four straight fastballs and the final one was a 98-mph heater that the 32-year-old barreled up to score Nelson Cruz from second.
"It's kind of like the 'Old School' quotes. Did I just black out or how did I end up on second base?" said Lind. "You're just hoping he hangs something or leaves something middle-middle."
A little too early: The White Sox put the leadoff runner on base in the second, when Frazier walked, and again in the third, on J.B. Shuck's infield single. But both runners were caught stealing when they left too early from first and Hernandez simply stepped off the mound. The leadoff hitter reached base five times in eight innings against Hernandez, but the White Sox never scored.
"We're the one who made the mistake of taking off. We didn't run the bases very well tonight. That ends up costing you," Ventura said. "They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn't deserve to win that game."
"It was tremendous pitching tonight and we needed it. We were up against it but Felix said, 'I've got it' and he did. He took it and ran with it and had all pitches going and kept them off balance. And it was nice to get Eddie Diaz back. That's the guy we saw for a long time." -- Servais, on the pitching performances of Hernandez and Diaz
"If I wasn't pitching tonight I would have been watching every pitch. He's special. His nickname is the King. That doesn't fall on too many people." -- Sale, on Hernandez
FRAZIER LOVES THE LONG BALL -- AGAIN
Frazier's 419-foot blast in the seventh snapped a 14-game homerless streak, a drought covering 62 plate appearances.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Left-hander Ariel Miranda has a 4.32 ERA in three starts since being acquired from the Orioles for Wade Miley on July 31 and now gets a shot at the White Sox in Saturday's 4:10 p.m. PT start. The 27-year-old from Cuba picked up his first MLB win in relief, but has moved into the rotation now and allowed three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in his last start against Milwaukee.
White Sox:Jose Quintana picked up his career-high 10th win in his last start against Oakland and tries to better that number Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Quintana ranks third in the American League with a 2.84 ERA and is 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last nine starts .