SAN DIEGO – Felix Hernandez flashed his Cy Young form, and that made all the difference for the Seattle Mariners.
After a season marked by inconsistency, Hernandez – the 2010 winner of the A.L. Cy Young Award – turned in another outstanding start with his arm and his bat.
Hernandez pitched seven impressive innings and hit a two-run double to lead the Mariners to a 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
Hernandez (5-5) limited the Padres to one run and six hits. The right-hander struck out 10 and walked one. His only blemish was a balk that brought home San Diego’s only run in the first inning.
“Felix stepped up,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We needed him to. He is our guy.”
Hernandez’s two-out, two-run double in the second capped a three-run inning in which all the runs were unearned because of second baseman Logan Forsythe’s error.
“I was trying to swing at the first pitch since I thought it would be a fastball,” Hernandez said.
In his previous outing last Sunday, Hernandez surrendered one run in seven innings of a 2-1 win over San Francisco. Hernandez had an ERA of 6.37 in six starts before then.
“I feel I have to be more consistent,” he said. “I know I am pitching good.”
Michael Saunders hit a solo homer for Seattle, which has belted eight home runs and scored 32 runs in the first five games of its road trip.
The Padres, who had 11 hits in Friday night’s 9-5 win, were held in check by Hernandez, who won for the first time since May 21 against Texas.
“He had great command of all his pitches,” San Diego’s Mark Kotsay said. “He had a real good feel for his split-finger, which makes his fastball that much more effective. His velocity was not as high as normal.
“But with an 88 mile per hour split, being able to throw it in the hitting zone, having it disappear, it’s a tough test for hitters.”
Seattle’s pitching staff had surrendered 39 runs through the first four games of the trip before Hernandez displayed his award-winning ability.
“When he was down (in the strike zone), he was working good,” Wedge said. “You’re seeing more life on his fastball. When he does that and on the plate and down, he’s as good as it gets.”
Hernandez ran into trouble in the first inning when he gave up a one-out single to Cameron Maybin, who went to third on Chase Headley’s double. Hernandez was then called for a balk on a pickoff throw to first base, allowing Maybin to score.
Hernandez then shut down the Padres. He got an inning-ending double play with runners at first and third in the fourth.
“We had our chances. Hit the ball on the nose. It just didn’t happen for us,” Padres manager Bud Black said.
In the seventh, with runners on first and third, pinch-hitter Kotsay hit a hard liner to second baseman Dustin Ackley, who doubled the runner off second to end the inning.
“I’ve been more consistent throwing strikes with the fastball,” Hernandez said. “The fastball was good, the breaking ball is better.”
Jason Marquis (1-3) allowed five runs – two earned – and six hits in seven innings. Marquis was coming off a career-high tying 10 strikeout performance.
Saunders got the Mariners’ second-inning rally going with a one-out single. After a walk to Justin Smoak, Ackley hit a grounder to Forsythe, but his throw to shortstop Everth Cabrera bounced in the dirt.
Brendan Ryan then grounded out to score one run before Hernandez, who hadn’t batted this season, hit the first pitch down the right-field line to break a 1-1 tie.
Hernandez came into the game with a career batting average of .125 (3 for 24), although one of his hits was a grand slam, which came exactly four years earlier.
Hernandez has struck out at least 10 batters 18 times, including twice this season.