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Mariners split on record day for Ichiro

Mariners split on record day for Ichiro

ARLINGTON -- On most nights, pitching a shutout would put Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez front and center during the postgame celebration.

But this was no ordinary night.

Hernandez contributed seven scoreless innings to the Mariners' 5-0 victory over the Rangers in the nightcap of a rain-delayed doubleheader before an announced crowd of 18,522 at Rangers Ballpark on Sunday.

But his performance took second place in relevance.

Ichiro Suzuki had one hit in each game, completing his journey to a Major League-record ninth consecutive 200-hit season. He had shared the record for almost a year with Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Keeler, whose streak ended exactly 100 years before Ichiro's streak started.

A typical season for the Mariners right fielder has been a breakout season for Hernandez.

The 23-year-old has been considered for several years throughout the industry as one of the best young pitchers in the business.

He has more than pitched up to those high expectations this season, and tossed his right arm into the American League Cy Young Award race.

The 30th start of the season was among his best, and there have been a lot of good ones. This was the 16th time that he pitched at least seven innings and allowed one or fewer runs.

The first-time All-Star, coming off a nine-win season a year ago, surpassed the 14 wins he had in 2007, when he compiled a 14-7 record and 3.92 ERA. He is 15-5 with a 2.52 ERA.

He arrived at Rangers Ballpark around 1 p.m. CT on Sunday, seven hours before making his first pitch. The first game of a rain-caused doubleheader was delayed more than four hours before it finally stopped raining, and the Rangers stung the Mariners with a 7-2 loss.

The nightcap was a far different story.

"It all evolves around Felix," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He sat around all day not knowing if he was even going to pitch and then goes out and gives us an effort like that."

Hernandez held the Rangers to four hits, all singles, struck out five and walked one.

"He had five strikeouts and almost all of them came at critical times," Wakamatsu said.

The Rangers had a runner on third base with one out in the first inning when Hernandez fanned Ian Kinsler and Marlon Byrd to end the inning. And Hernandez struck out Elvis Andrus to end the second inning, stranding a runner on third.

The only time Texas put two runners on base in the same inning was the sixth, when Julio Borbon and Andrus drilled back-to-back singles with one out. Kinsler bounced into an inning-ending double play.

"You can tell how much it means to compete out there," Wakamatsu said. "When you look up, you see him throw 20 pitches in the first inning and have 60 pitches through the third and your hoping he will get deep into the game.

"He somehow finds a way."

Hernandez said his back was a little tight in the first couple of innings, but by the third frame, he was back in the groove.

"I settled down and was able to make good pitches when runners were in scoring position and that was the key for me," he said.

Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre contributed his sixth home run of the season, Bill Hall tripled and scored and Hernandez took care of his part, holding the Rangers in check for the first seven innings, turning the series finale over to right-handed relievers Mark Lowe and David Aardsma, who each pitched a scoreless inning.

"First off, it was a great series win," Wakamatsu said. "This is the first one here since '06, so that makes it more special."

The Mariners won the three-game series and finished the road trip with 4-6 record.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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