SEATTLE (AP) – Adrian Beltre got the best of friend and former teammate Felix Hernandez, hitting a two-strike pitch for a two-run homer in the fourth inning and propelling the Texas Rangers to a 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Beltre lined his 27th homer of the season into the bullpens in left field, then playfully jawed with Hernandez (14-13) as he approached home plate. It was just Beltre’s second hit of the three-game series, both home runs.
Matt Harrison (13-9) won his third straight start, striking out a career-high nine in 6 2-3 shutout innings.
It was an important victory for Texas, remaining 4 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West after the Angels beat Baltimore earlier Sunday. After an off day Monday, the Rangers open a three-game series in Oakland.
With Harrison winning his 13th game, the Rangers became the first AL team since 1977 to have five pitcher with at least 13 victories. In the last 30 years only three teams have accomplished that feat, all in the National League.
Harrison allowed six hits and walked a pair, and took advantage of the strikeout-prone Mariners. Seattle batters have struck out at least nine times in nine of the past 10 games. Over those 10 games, Seattle has struck out 120 times.
Only once did Seattle advance a runner to third base against Harrison and that came in the seventh inning. Harrison left with two outs after Ichiro Suzuki’s infield hit that glanced off Harrison’s glove and Andrus couldn’t get to in time. Suzuki’s 173rd hit of the season loaded the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who had doubled off Harrison in his previous at bat.
Instead of risking it, Rangers manager Ron Washington went to Koji Uehara. The move worked as Uehara struck out Rodriguez to end Seattle’s best scoring chance.
Mike Carp nearly ended the shutout in the eighth, but Josh Hamilton robbed Carp of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall in left to end the inning.
Neftali Feliz picked up his 28th save in 34 chances, pitching the ninth.
Beltre was one of Hernandez’s closest friends when Hernandez first made the jump to the majors and Beltre was with the Mariners. Beltre left after the 2009 season and when Beltre walked to the plate in the fourth inning Sunday, it was just his ninth plate appearance against the Mariners ace.
Instead of pitching conservatively, Hernandez went right at Beltre with the 0-2, two-out fastball, and the veteran got the better of Hernandez.
Texas nearly had another homer in the third inning when Ian Kinsler hit a shot down the left-field line. Third base umpire Brian Gorman initially ruled it a two-run homer, but the “King’s Court” — supporters of Hernandez that sit in a special section near the left-field pole — immediately started chanting “foul ball.”
The call was overturned on video review and Kinsler subsequently grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Texas added an insurance run in the sixth when Kinsler led off with a single and scored on Andrus’ double down the left-field line. Andrus had three hits and extended his season-high hitting streak to 12 games.
In his final home start of the season, Hernandez wasn’t his sharpest. The reigning AL Cy Young winner gave up nine hits and struck out five but lost his second straight decision.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)