Wednesday's 6-0 whitewash was followed up by a mound visit by the "King," Felix Hernandez, who gave the Rangers a royal razzing, shutting them down on three hits over eight innings for his 17th win against eight losses, tying him for the most wins in the league with Houston's Dallas Keuchel (17-6). The Mariners took the series-ender, 5-0. Nelson Cruz's two-run homer - his 40th - was all the run support Hernandez needed. Tom Wilhelmsan completed the shutout, working the ninth.
Hernandez, who struck out eight and issued four walks, is approaching a couple of milestones. With four or five starts left in the regular season, Hernandez could reach 20 wins, something - despite his award-winning career marks - he's never done. The closest he got was in 2009, when he posted a record of 19-5.
A six-time all-star, Hernandez upped his strikeout total to 175 on Thursday, putting him at 8th in the league. If he reaches 200 Ks this season, it will be the seventh straight season he's fanned 200 or more.
As far as the Rangers are concerned, they've seen enough of Mr. Hernandez for this year. In four starts against the Rangers, he's won each time, and Texas will likely see him a fifth time, when Texas hosts the Mariners in a three-game series next weekend.
That series is the tail end of a teen-game homestead for the Rangers, who take on the A's for three games beginning Friday, then welcome in the Astros in a make-or-break four-game series. The Astros lead Texas by 2 1/2 games in the AL West.
|Frazier: 32 HRs|
Holding the best record in baseball from mid-April forward, and, with a 4 1/2 game lead (22 games remaining) over the Pirates in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals appear a lock for the playoffs.
However, as well as the Cardinals have played, the road to the post-season has had its share of bumps and pitfalls.
Thursday night's opener of a four-game series in Cincinnati looked more like a sinkhole as the Reds battered five Cardinal pitchers for an 11-0 win.
Cincinnati knocked out 13 hits, including three by Todd Frazier, who singled, smacked his 40th double, and 32nd homer of the season, driving in three runs and scoring three times.
Frazier is fourth in home runs in the NL and tied for ninth with 83 RBI. The Reds have not been as prosperous as their hard-hitting third baseman, dead last in the NL Central, 29 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.
Some of the angst may have been taken off in the one-sided series opener, but the Cardinals will try to return the favor in game two on Friday. Game time is 7:10 pm EDT.