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Hernandez, Mariners hand Twins' Liriano first defeat

SEATTLE (AP) -- Felix Hernandez's answer needed no translation.

Does he feel like he's back to being the hard-throwing phenom
everyone expected?

"Si," Hernandez said emphatically.

The Seattle Mariners' 20-year-old right-hander won for the third
time in four starts Tuesday night, outlasting Minnesota's own young
pitching star, Francisco Liriano, in a 4-2 win over the Twins.

Hernandez allowed one run and scattered six hits over seven
innings. He overpowered some batters with his 97 mph fastball,
buckled knees with his breaking pitches and, most importantly, kept
Seattle in the game by pitching out of tough situations early.

"In my mind, what won that game for us was Hernandez doing what
he did," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "The Twins, they
have some good hitters, they're a good-hitting ballclub and he shut
them down."

Hernandez (5-6) struck out five and threw 60 of his 100 pitches
for strikes, and in the process handed the 22-year-old Liriano his
first loss of the season. Hernandez also got some payback for a 3-1
loss to Liriano on May 26.

Hernandez won consecutive starts for the first time this season
and Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak to the Twins.

"You are seeing two young men that have great stuff. You are
seeing a lot of very good hitters chase pitches and turn around
looking, going 'wow," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We
were doing that on their guy and I'm sure they were doing that on
our guy."

This season, Hernandez has struggled with giving up runs early --
he's allowed first-inning runs in six of his 11 starts -- before
settling into a groove.

On Tuesday, Hernandez battled through the first, getting a
two-out groundout from Justin Morneau with the bases loaded. In the
third, Hernandez got a weak groundout from Torii Hunter and a
strikeout of Michael Cuddyer to end the inning after allowing
one-out hits to Jason Kubel and Joe Mauer.

Minnesota's only run off Hernandez came in the fifth, when Kubel
lined a two-out single to left, and Mauer followed with a slicing
fly down the left-field line. Left fielder Raul Ibanez was playing
Mauer in the left-center gap and could not run down the ball,
allowing Kubel to score from first.

"It was almost exactly the same as it was in Minnesota,"
Hernandez said of his matchup with Liriano. "But it was backward
this time. I won."

Seattle scratched out a pair of runs off Liriano (4-1) in the
fourth, just the second and third runs he has allowed since moving
into the Twins' rotation on May 19. The Mariners added another in
the sixth before Liriano was lifted.

Liriano gave up seven hits and struck out three in six innings.

Ichiro Suzuki had four hits and Mike Morse drove in a pair of
runs for the Mariners.

Kubel led off the eighth with a homer off Seattle reliever Eddie
Guardado, who received a cascade of boos after giving up the
404-foot shot to right field. Seattle used four pitchers in the
inning, but J.J. Putz got the final out of the eighth, stranding
two runners, and pitched the ninth for his ninth save.

Kubel had three hits and Mauer was 4-for-4 with two doubles. He
is hitting .492 over his last 15 games.

Kenji Johjima led off the fourth with a single to center and
scored easily on Morse's one-out double off the top of the wall in
center, missing a home run by about two feet.

Liriano briefly lost focus and it cost him a run. He threw a
wild pitch on his first delivery to Yuniesky Betancourt, allowing
Morse to move to third. Betancourt grounded to third for the second
out, but Suzuki hit a chopper that Liriano jumped for, but it
bounced off his bare hand. Suzuki was safe on the infield single
and Morse scored for a 2-0 lead.

"Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro ... we don't know how to get him out,"
Gardenhire said.

Seattle added a run in the sixth, when Willie Bloomquist neatly
slid around Mauer's tag after Morse grounded sharply to third
baseman Tony Batista. Reliever Matt Guerrier allowed an RBI double
to Ibanez in the seventh.

Game notes
Kubel saved a run in the seventh when he made a diving
catch of a sinking line drive from Richie Sexson. ... Minnesota 2B
Luis Castillo batted leadoff for the first time this season. He had
hit second in all 49 games he had played. ... Morse started his
fourth game this season, all at different positions -- 1B, 3B, LF
and DH.