Before the Twins played host to the Seattle Mariners on Monday at Target Field, Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan spoke of several players who need to use the last 35 games of 2012 to “give us some hope that they’re going to be part of the 2013 club.”
Among them is Liam Hendriks, who entered Monday’s game with an 0-6 record and a 7.06 ERA.
Though the Twins took another header in a season quickly spiraling out of control, Hendriks went a long way toward showing the Twins they might be able to count on him next season. He gave up one run on three hits and three walks, fanning six in a career-high nine innings during Minnesota’s 1-0 loss.
If his opponent hadn’t been Felix Hernandez, he probably wouldn’t still be looking for his first major league victory.
“We were excited,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He matched that guy zero for zero. We’ve been waiting for this.”
Hendriks went 21-9 with a 2.85 ERA over 245 2/3 innings between Class AAA Rochester and Class AA New Britain the past two seasons, but as a major-leaguer, he is now 0-9, though Monday’s loss should qualify for some sort of asterisk.
“It’s huge,” Hendriks said of his performance. “I know I can compete, and I know I can even get better than this.”
His lone mistake was a leadoff homer by Eric Thames in the eighth inning after the Twins had finished the seventh by stranding Justin Morneau after a leadoff triple. Hernandez needed only four pitches to retire the side on consecutive groundouts by Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe and Jamey Carroll.
“You’ve got to get a better pitch, got to get something up in the air. We weren’t able to do it,” Gardenhire said. “You tip your hat to the guy on the other side. That’s why he’s one of the best, if not the best in the league: He made pitches when he had to, and we hit the ball at people.”
The Twins, who have lost nine of 11, fell 24 games under .500 for the second time this season, but at least Hendriks gave them something to cheer about.
“It was definitely good to get this one out there,” Hendriks said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t come up with a win, but I know the guys were trying as hard as they could. We had our chances, but hats off to Felix Hernandez; he threw a great game.”