SEATTLE — The past month on the mound for White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey was mostly forgettable. Lots of hits. Lots of runs allowed. Very little success.
All of which made his performance on Saturday night stunning, allowing two hits in 8 1/3 innings in a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
In his five starts before the All-Star break, Covey was 0-4 with an 11.70 ERA and six home runs allowed. Yet he baffled the Mariners, picking up his first win since June 13 against Cleveland and looking more like the pitcher who was 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA during his first six starts.
“Definitely just mixing up speed. The curveball was probably the best it’s been the past two years or so and it was just another pitch to get them off my fastball,” said Covey, who touched 96 mph with his fastball. “The last couple of outings I haven’t been mixing up speeds enough and they’ve been getting to me the second time through.”
Covey also unveiled a straight changeup he has been working on to go with his split-change, and there was no getting to him in this outing. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Dee Gordon singled with one out. He retired the next nine batters until Jean Segura’s one-out single in the ninth ended his night.
“We were going to go batter to batter,’’ Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “It was a great outing by him. He hadn’t gone more than seven this year and coming off the break it was a solid outing for him, we wanted to make sure it was as good an outing as he possibly could have.’’
Covey (4-5) was lifted after throwing 105 pitches. He had never pitched beyond the seventh inning in a major league start and in his past three road starts, Covey had allowed 18 earned runs and opponents were hitting .380.
“After the second inning ended, the third and fourth, I started to pick up some steam and started to pour in some strikes,” Covey said. “It really worked out for me.”
He struck out five and got help from solid defense on the infield with 12 ground-ball outs. Shortstop Tim Anderson made a pair of difficult plays to get Gordon and Ben Gamel in the early innings and Yolmer Sanchez robbed Nelson Cruz of a hit in the seventh with a backhanded stop.
“We knew he had a good sinking fastball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Covey. “He executed pitches, made some pretty good pitches inside against some of our left-handed hitters. He threw the ball really well and they played good defense behind him.”
With Joakim Soria pitching, Leury Garcia added one more defensive gem to keep the shutout intact, robbing Mitch Haniger of a two-run homer for the second out of the ninth inning with a leaping catch at the wall in left field.
Avisail Garcia provided the big blow with his 10th home run of the season off Seattle starter Felix Hernandez. The Sox got four runs in the fourth inning after Hernandez was dominant the first time through the lineup.
Hernandez (8-8) recorded six straight outs via strikeout in the second and third innings, the only hiccup a walk to Omar Narvaez. But it all fell apart in the fourth. Sanchez opened the inning with a sharp single, Jose Abreu was hit by a curveball that didn’t break and with one out Garcia hit a changeup out to deep center field.
“I was looking for something slow because that is how he struck me out the first time,” Garcia said.
NOTES: Right-hander Nate Jones suffered a setback in his recovery from a pronator muscle strain and will be shut down for two weeks, manager Rick Renteria said. Renteria said he expects Jones, 32, to come back this season.
*Hernandez was activated off the disabled list to make the start after suffering lower back stiffness. He lasted just five innings for the fourth time in his last five starts. Hernandez was limited to about 90 pitches, having not thrown since July 6.
*Reynaldo Lopez (4-7) will make his 20th start of the season, trying to rebound from two poor outings before the All-Star break. Lopez is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA in his past two starts. For Seattle, lefty Marco Gonzales (10-5) looks to build on his impressive first-half performance. Gonzales has won his last three starts, including a 3-0 win over the Angels in his last outing on July 11.
Contributing: Daryl Van Schouwen