The past three times Felix Hernandez took the hill, the Mariners managed a single run of support over the 22.2 innings he pitched. Hernandez yielded two earned runs while suffering two no-decisions and a loss — an unfortunate run amid winning baseball. Something had to give. Monday, it finally did.
The offense banged out 14 hits and a dozen runs in support of their ace, allowing him to pick up his ninth win in a 12-3 beatdown of the Red Sox in front of 26,860 at Safeco Field. It was the Mariners’ fourth consecutive win, moving them for a second time to five games over .500 (41-36).
“That’s baseball,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of the previous losses. “It’s not a tough loss for Felix, it’s a tough loss for the Seattle Mariners. When we win, we win together. When we lose, we lose together.”
Despite a Logan Morrison solo home run in the second inning, Seattle found itself trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning. Then, one at-bat altered the game.
After Kyle Seager single scored Robinson Cano to tie the game at 2, Dustin Ackley came up with the bases loaded and one out to face Red Sox starter John Lackey.
Considering the ineptitude of the M’s offense during Hernandez’s previous three outings, the at-bat was an opportunity to give him a well-deserved lead. In the ensuing battle, Ackley saw 13 pitches, fouled off six with two strikes and had Lackey visibly frustrated.
On the 13th pitch, Ackley hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Mike Napoli, who turned and fired to Stephen Drew to start a 3-6-1 double play. But Lackey was late covering first base, leaving Drew with no throw and allowing Seager to score easily from third.
What followed was the implosion of Lackey and an old-fashioned woodshed-beating.
“His at-bat for me was the ball game,” McClendon said. “He really battled, kind of wore him down a little bit. To bust down the line like that . . . we got a run, it opened the floodgates and things took off from there.”
A wild pitch, walk, single, and a bases-clearing triple that eluded right-fielder Brock Holt left Lackey cursing all the way into the clubhouse and had the M’s in cruise control.
The M’s scored six runs on four hits and a wild pitch while sending 10 men to the plate.
Finally with some runs behind him, Hernandez (9-2, 2.24 ERA) went into shutdown mode. He retired nine of the next 11 batters by getting ground balls and weak pop-ups. Hernandez pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks, striking out six. He allowed a solo home run to Mike Napoli in the fourth inning, the first homer in 12 starts.
Boston (35-42) reached Hernandez early with three consecutive two-out hits to take a 1-0 lead. However, Hernandez got Daniel Nava to fly out to left to strand runners on second and third. That at-bat keyed Hernandez’s outing.
“I thought he was pretty good tonight,” McClendon said. “They jumped on him in the first inning, left some pitches up, but he made some quality pitches to Nava and got us out of there.”
The onslaught didn’t stop after the fourth inning.
Up 8-2 facing Boston reliever Chris Capuano in the seventh inning, Seattle connected for five consecutive hits, including two doubles and Morrison’s second home run of the game to take a 12-2 lead. Morrison was 4-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and four RBI while posting the first multi-homer game of his career. He lifted his average from .164 to .215.
“I got good pitches, I didn’t try to do too much,” Morrison said. “I put the barrel on the ball, but guys were in spots to help me out. Dustin Ackley doing what he did in the fourth inning, I had a great view of it from second base and he was fouling off everything Lackey had two times over. Lackey was just tired after that and couldn’t get out of the inning. We took advantage of it.”
Morrison said it was good to do it for Hernandez.
“It feels good if anybody’s out there,” Morrison said. “Obviously him going out there, he competes every single time he goes out. We know all we need to score is three, and we haven’t been able to do that. If we could spread these out over his starts, it’s probably a little better, and a little better for our win-loss record.”
He wasn’t the only one hitting. Seager returned home from a 2-for-19 road trip to go 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Also with multi-hit games were Cano (2-for-5, double, RBI) and Endy Chavez, who was 2-for-4 with the key bases-clearing triple in the fourth.
LHP James Paxton (shoulder, lat) played catch on flat ground again Monday. He is scheduled to throw a flat-ground session from 60 feet on Wednesday before getting back on the mound for a 20-25 pitch bullpen session Friday . . . Morrison tied a career-high with four hits . . . Hernandez’s streak of 83 consecutive innings without allowing a homer was the longest active streak in baseball.