SEATTLE — Phil Hughes has yet to have a truly bad outing this season and yet he's winless in his four starts for Minnesota.
With how well Felix Hernandez pitched on Friday night for Seattle, Hughes would have needed to be close to perfect.
"Going up against Felix, you've got to be on top of your stuff. He is one of the best in the business," Hughes said. "You can live with maybe one run. ... That second one was the killer."
Hernandez threw a five-hitter for his first complete-game victory since August 2012, and Nelson Cruz provided all the offense Seattle needed with his major league leading ninth home run as the Mariners beat the Twins 2-0.
Hughes (0-4) was nearly the equal of Hernandez, going eight innings and giving up just six hits. But he was tagged for homers by Cruz — into the second deck in left field above the bullpens — and a solo shot from Logan Morrison leading off the fifth.
"There's two pitches I'd like to have back. It seems like that's kind of the story of my year so far," Hughes said. "It's like (six) homers now and it seems like those are the turning points of the game."
Hernandez (3-0) was dominant from the start. He retired the first 14 batters before Plouffe's single with two outs in the fifth. He struck out nine, threw 102 pitches and got out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings.
It was Hernandez's first complete game win since beating Minnesota on Aug. 27, 2012, when he also allowed five hits. Hernandez is now 3-0 for the second straight season and the third time in his career.
"It's been a while so it feels really good," Hernandez said.
Hernandez needed just 38 pitches to cruise through the first 12 batters, half striking out. He struck out Brian Dozier to start the fifth and got Kennys Vargas to ground out before Plouffe lined a 1-1 pitch into right field for the Twins' first hit.
An inning later, Hernandez found himself in a major jam. Kurt Suzuki reached on an infield single deep in the hole at short and advanced to second when Brad Miller's throw went out of play. Jordan Schafer — robbed of a hit in the third on a great defensive play by Robinson Cano and Morrison — reached on an infield single, putting runners at the corners with no outs.
Minnesota put runners at the corners with two outs in the seventh, but Hernandez got a fly out from Suzuki to end the inning.
"You don't get a lot of shots against a guyu like that and when we got them we didn't take advantage and couldn't get the runs in," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said.
Hernandez was at 91 pitches after the eighth and came back for the ninth to a standing ovation. He got Mauer to ground out, Dozier to fly out and Vargas on a comebacker to close out the victory.
"He can throw any pitch in any count wherever he wants and they are all plus pitches," Schafer said. "Thank God every guy you face isn't like that."
GOOD AT SAFECO
Even with the loss, Hughes continued a trend of pitching well at Safeco Field. Hughes suffered his first loss in six appearances at the stadium. He's now 5-1 with a 0.96 ERA in Seattle.
Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco's scheduled rehab start at Single-A Cedar Rapids was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday. He's missed 12 games with right elbow inflammation.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day DL with a right lat strain before Friday's game. Iwakuma had been feeling fatigue since his previous start on Monday against Houston and didn't feel any better after a bullpen session on Friday.
Twins: Trevor May (1-1) will make his third start after picking up his first win of the season last time out. It'll be a special start for the Kelso, Washington native, his first at Safeco Field as a professional. He pitched at Safeco in a high school playoff game.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton starts for Seattle looking to rebound after lasting just 2 2-3 innings and giving up seven earned runs in his last start.
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