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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 7, 2007 3:12 PM

Hernandez reads internet letter; hear clips

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, Jarrod Washburn won't start tomorrow. Quash that rumor. The Mariners were just being secretive about the rotation pre-game, well, for the sake of being secretive. It will be Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver pitching against the Tigers next week. Ryan Feierabend goes tomorrow, likely not after that.

What a day for the real Hernandez to show up. The Mariners shut out the Oakland A's, 4-0, behind the two-hitter thrown over eight innings by Hernandez, who has put together back-to-back gems for the first time in quite a while.

Get this though. After the game, Hernandez gave credit to the so-called "Open Letter to Rafael Chaves" that the folks at USS Mariner wrote last week as a reason he mixed his pitches up so effectively in the early innings. The website has been stating repeatedly for the past two months that Hernandez had to stop throwing so many fastballs in a row. Chaves apparently had been telling Hernandez this as well, but when someone in the stands -- he didn't say where -- handed him the "letter" he passed it on to Hernandez for reinforcement.

"Chaves gave me a report,'' Hernandez said. "On the internet, they say when I throw a lot of fastballs in the first inning, they score a lot of runs. I tried to mix all my pitches in the first inning.''

Will Hernandez read the internet more often now?

"No,'' he laughed.

Hear the first part of audio clips in which Hernandez mentions the internet report at the very end. And at the start of this second clip, he talks about it as well.

Chaves said he was handed the "letter'' by a person who cares about baseball and the team. He said he didn't know the fan beforehand.

"It was nothing but reinforcement of the talks we've had in the past,'' Chaves said. "I just wanted to make Felix aware that 'It's not a top secret around baseball that you have a tendency to get into patterns. We all get scouted and...unless you make your own adjustments it's going to be easy to predict what you're going to be doing out there to begin with.''

Hear all that Chaves had to say here on this audio clip.

So, score one to the website and to the Mariners for using a different method to deliver an old message.

Hernandez needed 116 pitches this time, not the sub-100 he had through eight innings in Kansas City last week, but playing the Royals and playing the A's are two different things.

The Angels beat the Yankees in 13 innings, so the Mariners are still 3 1/2 games out. Detroit and Boston are tied in the eighth inning as Seattle tries to get wihtin 1 1/2 games of the wild-card lead. Things are starting to get interesting. Not much to say about this game. Hernandez looked like the guy we saw manhandle Oakland in the season opener. Once the Mariner hitters patiently knocked Rich Harden from the game before the fourth inning, keyed by that three-run homer from Adrian Beltre, it was game over. The way Hernandez pitched today, one run was going to be enough.

Hear what Beltre had to say about it right here.

"They told us that he had a pitch count so we tried to make him throw some pitches,'' Beltre said. "He didn't really help himself. He was throwing a lot of balls early in the ballgame and that helped us.''

Neither of the two Oakland hits was hit all that hard. One was a blooper, the other an infield single off Hernandez's glove.

All of a sudden, this Seattle rotation is looking like a different animal altogether. If it can keep up this string of steady, seven-inning outings, it might have the energy to go the distance to September. The bullpen has gotten a badly needed rest ever since that wipeout on Tuesday.

One more game to go before the break. The M's are now 3-3 on this trip and 11-3 since that series opening loss to the Reds. They are 18-9 since heading off to San Diego in June. What a run. Who could have predicted this from a club that seemed content to play .500 all year? Great ending to a memorable first half. It's not over yet. If the Mariners know what's good for them, they will bury the A's tomorrow. Leave them so far behind that even attempting one of those second-half runs will seem a waste of time. A win tomorrow leaves Seattle 6 1/2 up on the A's and Oakland will seem like a very distant memory.

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