SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez snapped a personal four-game losing streak, allowing one run over eight innings, and Jose Lopez hit a three-run homer to help the Seattle Mariners beat A.L. Central-leading Minnesota 4-1 on Thursday night.
Hernandez last won on April 21, and Seattle lost each of his next seven starts.
The Mariners’ young ace avoided getting drilled in the head by Justin Morneau’s RBI liner with two outs in the first inning, then settled into a groove. After Morneau’s hit, Hernandez (3-4) retired 22 of the final 27 batters he faced to lead the Mariners to their third victory in four games in the series.
Hernandez even struck out four Twins in the eighth inning after Joe Mauer reached when a third strike in the dirt bounced away from catcher Rob Johnson. No problem for Hernandez, who got Morneau looking to end the inning and add to his strikeout total. It was the third time in Mariners’ history a pitcher struck out four in an inning.
Lopez provided the offense, with his fourth homer of the season in Seattle’s four-run third inning. David Aardsma pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances.
During his losing skid, Hernandez had outing where he wasn’t the young star Seattle expect, and other times when the Mariners offense simply failed to help him out. In his last start against the Angels, Hernandez threw eight innings giving up one run, and left in a 1-1 game, only to see Seattle lose 5-1.
On Thursday night, Hernandez came through with another strong effort and this time got a bit of offensive help.
In his 150th career start, Hernandez struck out nine and walked one and was still hitting the mid-90s on the radar gun in the eighth inning.
Aside from Mauer’s two-out double in the first that center field Franklin Gutierrez appeared to misjudge and couldn’t get to despite a diving attempt, all hits Hernandez allowed were singles.
Hernandez’s last victory was a complete-game win over Baltimore in late April.
Lopez came up with the big blow for Seattle’s offense, but the Mariners took advantage of Twins’ starter Carl Pavano all night. Seattle stole five bases in the first three innings, three of those by Ichiro Suzuki. The Mariners failed to come up with the two-out hit needed to score Ichiro in the first, but made up for it in the third.
Michael Saunders led off with a ground-rule double, then stole third and scored on Suzuki’s single. After Ichiro flustered Pavano with two more stolen bases and Gutierrez walked, Lopez jumped on Pavano’s first pitch. It was Lopez’s second homer in three games.
Pavano (5-6) settled down after the third, but still lost for the third time in four starts. Pavano threw seven innings, giving up eight hits, walking two and striking out five.
Twins’ prospect Danny Valencia made his major league debut and reached on an infield single in his first at-bat. Valencia was called up after Wednesday night’s game while Michael Cuddyer is on the bereavement list.