DETROIT – Felix Hernandez couldn’t recall struggling to throw strikes as much as he did early on Wednesday night.
That’s probably because Hernandez walked three in the first inning for the first time in his major league career.
Seattle’s ace got out of that jam unscathed, allowed only a run in seven innings and the Mariners beat the slumping Detroit Tigers 9-1.
“This is not a good lineup to get behind in the count,” Hernandez said. “But then I started to get lucky.”
He also was pretty good.
Hernandez (2-1) gave up a solo homer to Brennan Boesch in the third – and not much else. The right-hander yielded four hits and all of his free passes were in the first.
Rookie Alex Liddi gave Hernandez enough run support by himself.
Liddi hit a two-run homer in the third inning to chase the first of two pitchers with a swing of his surprising bat. His second homer in as many days ended Adam Wilk’s night after he got just six outs. Liddi’s single in the sixth loaded the bases and finished rookie reliever Thad Weber.
Collin Balester induced three flyouts, but walked in a run to make it 9-1.
“It feels good to hit the home runs, but winning both games makes it better,” Liddi said.
Seattle has won two straight after losing four in a row.
The Tigers have lost five of six after starting 9-3.
“People are beating up on us – and enjoying it,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Sooner or later, we’ll get tired of it. None of us are doing enough good things right now.”
Wilk (0-3) allowed six runs and eight hits in just two-plus innings. The rookie gave up just two runs in each of his first two starts. He was sent to Triple-A Toledo after the game and Brayan Villarreal was called up to take his place on the roster. Leyland said he didn’t know who would take Wilk’s spot in the rotation Monday against Kansas City.
Hernandez got out of his only jam in the first inning. He got Alex Avila to ground out to second baseman Dustin Ackley, who bobbled the ball, but scooped it up and threw to first in time to get the slow-footed catcher to strand three runners.
“He was good when he needed to be,” Leyland said. “We had a chance to get him in the first inning, and we didn’t take it. You aren’t going to get many chances against him.”
Hernandez has won nine straight decisions against the Tigers since losing to them in 2006. The Tigers led off the third, fourth and fifth innings with hits, but scored only once on Boesch’s third homer of the season.
“We had a great chance against him in the first inning and we got nothing,” said Detroit’s Delmon Young, who drew the third walk off Hernandez. “After that, he had a lead and he didn’t have to give us anything to hit.”
Seattle matched its season high with 15 hits a day after setting it with 15 against the Tigers – just days after Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw baseball’s 21st perfect game against the Mariners on Saturday.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch these guys the last couple of days after a tough week,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Detroit’s sluggers were shut down. Prince Fielder avoided a hitless night with a single in the ninth inning. Miguel Cabrera went 0 for 4 with two warning-track flyouts.
“Usually, if he doesn’t get a hit it’s a near miss,” Wedge said.
No one on the team that began the season with a highly touted lineup had more than one hit until Ramon Santiago hit a two-out single in the ninth to load the bases, only to have Don Kelly end the game with a popup.