SEATTLE — The first complete-game shutout by a Seattle pitcher in 2013 won’t belong to the Mariners’ $175 million man Felix Hernandez.
Try Aaron Harang.
After failing to make it out of the fourth inning in his previous start, Harang tossed a four-hit gem on Monday, shutting down the San Diego Padres in a 9-0 win. It was the first complete game for Harang since June 4, 2009 and first shutout since April 12, 2009. He struck out a season-high eight and threw 122 pitches.
And it was surprising because of how bad Harang was in his last start against the Los Angeles Angels when he gave up two home runs, nine hits and seemed on the verge of losing his spot in Seattle’s rotation.
“I’ve been working really hard with (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) to try and get things lined up and he’s looked at a lot of video. The big thing was coming out and pounding the strike zone and getting ahead in the count,” Harang said. “They’re an aggressive team. They’re going to go out swinging, and I was able to get them to put the ball into play within the first couple of pitches a few times and didn’t get into the count too much early on.”
Harang (2-5) was helped by getting staked to a 4-0 lead after the first inning, giving him the opportunity to pitch aggressively while still having some cushion for error. Jason Bay hit his first career leadoff homer and Michael Morse added a three-run shot as part of Seattle’s four-run first inning.
A day after getting the game-winning hit in the 13th inning against Texas that snapped the Mariners’ eight-game losing streak, Bay got Seattle started against San Diego lefty Clayton Richard.
Bay hit the fourth pitch out to deep right-center field for his fifth homer of the season. Morse followed with his 11th homer into the right-field seats after Richard (0-5) walked Kyle Seager and gave up a double to Kendrys Morales.
Harang was dominating after struggling to get outs at various times in his previous six starts. He allowing a leadoff bloop double to Everth Cabrera, then retired 18 of the next 19 batters.
Harang took a one-hitter into the seventh inning in the best performance of his seven starts with Seattle. He was efficient with his pitches and used the favorable dimensions of Safeco Field. Three times Harang saw fly balls caught on the warning track, including center fielder Endy Chavez making a twisting grab just in front of the wall to rob Chase Headley of extra bases in the first inning.
Headley led off the seventh inning with a hard shot that deflected off the glove of a diving Morales at first base for the Padres’ second hit. Headley was not at first long as Carlos Quentin hit a line drive right back at Harang, who got his glove up in time and was able to easily double off the runner at first.
Harang gave up a hit and walk in the eighth, but was able to finish the inning and began the ninth to a loud ovation. He struck out Headley on a 12-pitch at-bat to start the ninth, got Carlos Quentin looking and got a flyout from Yonder Alonso to finish it off.
“I’ve known Aaron a long time. He got away with some stuff today,” Headley said. “There were some hard-hit balls. Not that he didn’t pitch well, but I don’t see a complete-game shutout.”