SEATTLE -- Just what the rest of the American League does not need: A nasty new pitch from Felix Hernandez -- the "air cutter."
Seattle catcher Rob Johnson had a devilish time trying to catch it. The Detroit Tigers had an even worse time trying to hit it.Hernandez returned home and showed why Seattle recently gave him $78 million, and the Mariners' usually quiet bats made their most noise in eight months in an 11-3 victory over Detroit on Friday night.Hernandez (1-0) struck out nine -- Seattle's season high -- while allowing just four hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings in his home debut."Yep, everything was working today. It was great," King Felix said, with a grin almost as big as the $78 million, five-year contract he signed this winter.Johnson's smile was more wry. He had bruises all over his shin from trying to catch what is usually is a changeup from Hernandez. Against Detroit, Johnson's said the ball's seams continually caught air on the pitch, gained speed and darted sharply low and away."It was different. It was definitely tough on me," Johnson said.Johnson said players call the accidental gem an "air cutter," and Hernandez got the majority of his strikeouts with it.Detroit called mercy."He was good! There's no other way to put it," Adam Everett marveled, after looking overmatched while striking out in his first two at-bats against Hernandez. "Everything he threw was electric."Franklin Gutierrez had three hits and three RBIs, and Jose Lopez drove in two as the Mariners improved to 28-9 with King Felix starting since the beginning of 2009.More scary news for the AL: Last season's runner-up for the Cy Young Award turned just 24 a week ago.Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman (1-1) flopped in his second start after missing most of the last year and a half because of a blood clot in his pitching shoulder. The resident of Pasco, Wash., allowed 10 runs -- eight earned -- on nine hits and four walks in four-plus innings.It was the most runs Bonderman had allowed since July 29, 2007, when the Angels scored 11 off him.Seattle's lineup started the day with only two players batting above .250 -- Gutierrez and Lopez. It ended it with the Mariners' most runs in a game since last Aug. 9 against Tampa Bay. They tied their season high with 12 hits, including 11 singles.And it came with what Bonderman said were many family and friends in attendance."Bad night," he said.Not for Hernandez. He had allowed five earned runs total in his first two starts, but got no decisions. Then he tamed the Tigers with a fastball that reached 97 mph late, plus that sharply sinking "air cutter" in the 88-89 mph range."He's just blessed," Leyland said simply.When he left with two on in the seventh after throwing 105 pitches, he playfully smirked at manager Don Wakamatsu for removing him, then tipped his cap to acknowledge the standing ovation of 39,999 fans.Has he ever not given his manager a hard time for removing him?"No," Wakamatsu said, chuckling. "Just part of the job."After a throwing error on Detroit's Gerald Laird in the fourth led to two unearned runs and a 5-2 lead for Seattle, the Mariners got six runs in the fifth. It was Seattle's biggest inning since scoring six in one frame on Aug. 5. It was more runs than the Mariners had scored in any of their first 10 games.Milton Bradley, revitalized in his new sixth place in the order after struggling below .100 at cleanup in the first week of the season, joined the parade of singles for his sixth RBI in three games. Bonderman's final pitch resulted in a walk to Johnson that forced in Ken Griffey Jr. to make it 7-2.Brad Thomas gave up three more of Bonderman's runs, one on Gutierrez's second hit and third RBI.Detroit's only runs until the ninth came on Miguel Cabrera's double in the fourth that briefly made it 3-2.
Mariners ace LHP Cliff Lee (strained abdominal) said he felt great following a 51-pitch simulated game. He'll have another one Tuesday, then will have a minor-league rehabilitation start on April 25. He's on track to return May 1 or 2, pending his appeal of a five-game suspension. ... Bradley left the rout in the seventh to rest a sore knee. Wakamatsu said it's not serious. ... NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens threw a ceremonial first pitch to Figgins before the game to help commemorate baseball's Jackie Robinson Day. Wilkens coached the former Seattle SuperSonics to their only world championship in 1979 and was an executive with the team soon before it left town for Oklahoma.