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CLE@SEA: Felix fans 12 over eight scoreless frames

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez left it all on the field Thursday night, including his voice after screaming his way into the dugout following two dramatic strikeouts to escape a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning.

But all the drama went for naught as the Indians rallied in the ninth inning against Mariners closer Brandon League for a 2-1 victory at Safeco Field.

"It was a great game, both sides," a hoarse Hernandez said in a quiet Mariners clubhouse. "The other guy threw a pretty good game, too."

For his part, Hernandez hurled eight shutout innings in a command performance, turning a 1-0 lead over to his bullpen in the ninth. But League -- who'd recorded five straight saves to open the season -- loaded the bases on two walks and a single before Jack Hannahan delivered a two-run base hit that deflated the crowd of 12,942.

Hernandez had stymied the Indians with a five-hit gem, digging deep in the eighth inning to strike out Jason Kipnis and Shin-Soo Choo with the bases loaded as his pitch count climbed to 126, two shy of his career high. The no-decision left him at 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA in four starts.

"Felix was incredible tonight," said Mariners skipper Eric Wedge, who left Hernandez in to finish the eighth even after his pitch count crept well beyond his previous high of 107 this season. "He really stepped up for us that last inning. Just a tremendous effort."

All of which made League's letdown all the more difficult as he allowed his first runs in eight appearances this season.

"We had bases loaded with one out [in the eighth] and Felix did what Felix does," League said. "He put up a zero on the board. Unfortunately, I couldn't do the same in the ninth."

The Indians took the series 2-1 as Seattle's record evened at 7-7 with the White Sox now coming to town for a three-game weekend set.

Hernandez struck out the side in the third and totaled a season-high 12 strikeouts, much to the delight of the K-card carrying members of Felix's Court in left field.

Cleveland finally pieced together three singles in the eighth off Hernandez, though the second one by Jason Donald was a deflection off the pitcher's glove that left runners on first and second with one out. But manager Wedge stuck with his ace and it paid off as Hernandez got out of that jam with his final two strikeouts.

Seattle's Michael Saunders broke the scoreless tie in the fifth when he led off with a double, was sacrificed to third by Miguel Olivo and scored when Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis threw high and wide to the plate on a grounder by John Jaso with the infield in.

That gave King Felix a run to work with ... and he was working it in his fourth start of the year. Hernandez allowed only three balls out of the infield and one hit in the first six innings.

Hernandez let out a big scream and fist pump after striking out Casey Kotchman looking in the seventh following Travis Hafner's two-out double.

Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin was extremely efficient as well, holding Seattle to five hits in eight innings with no walks and seven strikeouts before Chris Perez came on for the save.

"I thought it was a great ballgame, well-pitched on both sides," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "Obviously everybody knows that Felix is a stud. He showed that tonight again. But, I couldn't be any prouder of my little cowboy. He just went toe to toe with Felix for eight innings."

"Tomlin did a real good job tonight," said Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who went 1-for-4 with a double. "We never really saw the same pitch twice. He hit his spots and kept it down. He was tough."

But this one eventually came down to the Indians vs. League in the ninth. The Mariners All-Star closer walked Carlos Santana, gave up a two-strike single to Hafner and then loaded the bases with a one-out walk to Shelley Duncan.

League said he then got the ground ball he was looking for from Hannahan, but it was hit sharply to the left of a diving Seager at third base and two runs scored.

"Brandon League's got some of the best stuff as far as closers go in this league," Hannahan said. "He's got big heavy, heavy run throwing 97 mph with a big nasty split-finger. All I was trying to do was get my foot down in time and was just looking for a fastball up over the plate. He threw one.

"That was probably an inch from being a double play. It's funny how stuff works out in baseball. As soon as I hit it, I kind of looked up real quick and saw Seager dive for it and he was probably about an inch away from it."

It was that kind of night for the Mariners. This close to a sterling victory, only to see it turn into a difficult defeat. But the man who paid the heaviest price said that was just part of baseball.

"We trust in Brandon," said Hernandez. "He's one of the best closers right now. It's just a bad thing that we lost, but he'll be back closing more games for us." Comments