SEATTLE – A towering fly ball into the right field seats gave Felix Hernandez the kind of breathing room he’s rarely seen this year.
It’s been a trying 2010 season so far for the Cy Young Award runner-up from last year, who’s had to claw for wins while taking his share of losses in games where his team can’t score. But not this time, as a three-run homer in the sixth inning by Michael Saunders enabled Hernandez and the Mariners to cruise to a 5-1 win on Saturday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Saunders blast gave Hernandez a four-run lead, something he hasn’t had since way back on April 16 against the Detroit Tigers. Since that time, it’s been one nail-biter or back-breaker after another for Hernandez.
But not this time around as Hernandez, provided the cushion, eased through the final three frames to earn the second consecutive complete-game victory by a Seattle starting pitcher. A crowd of 26,468 at Safeco Field cheered in appreciation as Hernandez gave them a taste – albeit too late – of how the one-two punch of staff aces was supposed to look before everything went so wrong for his team.
Seattle had scored just five runs total since the end of last Monday’s game in St. Louis when the Mariners finally broke through against Reds starter Sam LeCure in the sixth. With two on, first base open and one out, Reds manager Dusty Baker opted to intentionally walk .182-hitting Casey Kotchman to provide the force out at any base.
But the next hitter, Rob Johnson, quickly made Baker pay for that decision by driving a ball to center field for an easy sacrifice fly and a 2-1 lead. Saunders stepped up next, hitting just .200 the past two weeks, and belted LeCure’s first pitch over the right-field wall.
It was only the fifth time in Hernandez’s 15 starts this season that the Mariners have managed to score more than four runs. In fact, they had been held to just one run in three of his previous five starts.
Mariners 5, Reds 1
E—Jo.Wilson (8), Ro.Johnson (2). LOB—Cincinnati 4, Seattle 6. 2B—F.Gutierrez (10), Jo.Wilson (8). HR—I.Suzuki (3), off LeCure; M.Saunders (4), off LeCure. RBIs—Gomes (49), I.Suzuki (20), Ro.Johnson (10), M.Saunders 3 (13). SB—Stubbs (14), Figgins (14). SF—Ro.Johnson. RLISP—Cincinnati 2 (O.Cabrera, Gomes); Seattle 3 (Jo.Lopez, Ro.Johnson, Bradley). GIDP—Rolen, Jo.Lopez. DP—Cincinnati 1 (Rolen, B.Phillips, Votto); Seattle 1 (Jo.Lopez, Figgins, Kotchman).
|LeCure L, 1-4||6||8||5||5||1||4||102||4.50|
|Hernandez W, 5-5||9||5||1||1||1||9||114||3.39|
IBB—off LeCure (Kotchman). HBP—by LeCure (Jo.Wilson). WP—F.Hernandez. T—2:20. A—26,468 (47,878).