SEATTLE: Indians left-hander T.J. House made no secret of Sunday’s goal, to match 2010 American League Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez pitch for pitch.
The fearless rookie nearly did, save for his two-base throwing error in the sixth inning and a change-up he left up over the plate instead of down and away that led to Robinson Cano’s two-run homer.
But House couldn’t account for the fact that 18 hours after Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin one-hit the Mariners, “King Felix” and closer Fernando Rodney did the same to the Tribe. The result was a 3-0 Mariners victory as the home team went 2-1 in the three-game series at Safeco Field.
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall managed the lone hit off Hernandez (10-2, 2.10) leading off the fifth inning when his sharp single eluded the outreached glove of second baseman Cano. But Chisenhall was erased one batter later when David Murphy hit into a double play. Only one Tribe runner reached second base, that in the seventh inning when Carlos Santana walked and advanced on Chisenhall’s grounder.
In eight innings, Hernandez struck out nine of 27 batters and walked three. In his last nine starts, Hernandez is 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA.
“He didn’t leave any balls over the middle of the plate like he normally does,” Chisenhall said of Hernandez. “When he comes in he’s normally cutting it in and when he’s going away he’s sinking it. It was just a tough day.”
The Indians’ silent bats didn’t diminish the effort of House, recalled Sunday from Triple-A Columbus to replace Justin Masterson, given an extra two days of rest for his ailing right knee. In six innings, House (0-2, 4.54) allowed two runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out five.
“I thought T.J. was really good. On a lot of nights we’re sitting here right now bragging about his outing,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Because of the way Felix threw, any mistake makes it really difficult to win that game.
“I think T.J. feels like he belongs and he should. He gives us a chance every time he’s pitched. All you can do is put up zeroes. He can’t hit. The moment isn’t too big for what he’s trying to do.”
In the sixth, Michael Sanders hit what Francona called a “swinging bunt” to the first base side that House fielded. But he yanked his throw right and Sanders hustled to third. Cano followed with a home run to right, his fifth of the season.
“[Nick Swisher] was like a goalie over there,” Francona said. “That’s a tough play, anyway, when you’ve got the runner bearing down on you.”
House said he rushed his throw.
“I couldn’t see him. My back was turned, I had to spin a little bit,” he said. “I also didn’t notice how close I was to the bag. It probably would have been better to do a little flip instead.”
But overall, House felt good about himself.
“I’m definitely disappointed with how the sixth went, kind of hurt myself there making that error and giving up that two-run homer to Cano. I’ve got to do a better job at that,” he said. “But I felt great out there. My stuff was working pretty well. If [the sixth] doesn’t happen, it could be a 0-0 game and we could still be playing.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.