That four-start stretch in late April/early May in which Felix Hernandez did not have command of his off-speed pitches? Never mind. All gone. The King was at his regal best Friday night to lead the Mariners to a 6-1 win over Houston in front of 21,192 at Safeco Field — the fourth win in five games.
For Hernandez, it was an opportunity to rebound from two sub-par outings against the Astros to start the season.
“Everything was working,” said Hernandez. “I was aggressive, I was throwing a lot of strikes . . . The last two games against them, they were just laying off my breaking balls and my change-up, so (Friday) I was just aggressive on my fastball.”
Hernandez (6-1, 2.75 ERA) pitched eight innings for the second consecutive outing, allowed five hits and one run, walked one and struck out nine. Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar combined to close out a 1-2-3 ninth and send Seattle (24-23) above .500 for the first time in 10 days.
“Felix was pretty darned good tonight in a lot of different ways,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought he pitched in well, used his four-seamer when he needed to. For the most part, he had them off balance pretty good.”
Really, Hernandez had a tough time with just one hitter in the Houston lineup — Jose Altuve. The diminutive second baseman was 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and a stolen base. His last hit was a liner up the middle that ricocheted off of Hernandez’s left calf.
“He got me pretty good,” Hernandez said, sporting an ice pack on his calf.
His teammates supported him with one of the more well-rounded games of the season. They scored early, they delivered two-out hits with runners in scoring position, they made every play defensively.
It helped facing a 26-year-old making his major-league debut with a 2-3 record and 6.05 ERA in seven starts at AAA Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League.
Rudy Owens had his welcome moment when Robinson Cano extended his on-base streak to 30 games in the first inning with a single. Justin Smoak followed with a double to left field and Kyle Seager staked the M’s to a 2-0 lead with a two-out single to center.
The lead went to 3-1 in the fourth inning after Cole Gillespie, who started the inning with a walk, came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Willie Bloomquist.
Bloomquist continued his big night with his first home run since 2011 in the sixth, scoring Zunino (who just missed a homer by inches himself) and put the M’s ahead 5-1.
“(Bloomquist) is a professional. He struggled a little bit early on, but . . . he hadn’t had a lot of opportunities so we’re trying to get him a few more at-bats and get him going a little bit,” McClendon said. “Tonight is a little bit of what he can do.”
The Mariners added a run in the seventh when Smoak scored on an RBI single from Seager. Seager finished with three RBI and Smoak had two hits from the right side.
The Mariners have won the first two games of an important 11-game homestand. They will go for the series win Saturday with Brandon Maurer facing off against Brett Oberholtzer.
RHP Taijuan Walker (shoulder impingement) threw 56 pitches in a three-inning simulated game Friday and said he feels ready to head out on a minor-league rehab assignment. Walker faced teammates Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Gillespie. Gillespie was impressed: “He looks ready.” . . . When Owens and Jones faced off to begin the game, it marked the first time in major-league history that pitcher faced batter each wearing jersey No. 99 . . . Bloomquist’s homer was his first at Safeco Field since June 2007 . . . OF Logan Morrison went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game at AAA Tacoma.