First baseman’s homer backs King’s eight shutout innings
SEATTLE — That his worst outing of the season came the last time he faced the Los Angeles Angels was constantly in the back of Felix Hernandez’s mind.
Hernandez clearly learned from the mistakes made less than a month ago, and got some help from the Seattle Mariners’ surging offense.
Hernandez threw eight shutout innings and Justin Smoak drove in four runs off Los Angeles starter Jered Weaver, including a three-run homer, in the Mariners’ 6-0 win over the Angels on Saturday night.
“It’s always on my mind. You never forget that,” Hernandez said. “Like I said, I was just trying to be aggressive and pound the strike zone and get ahead of the hitters.”
Hernandez’s worst start of the season came on June 20 against the Angels. Hernandez was knocked around for 12 hits and six earned runs in five innings, one of just two starts this season in which he’s failed to pitch at least six complete innings. He allowed two home runs as well and got a no decision.
This time, Hernandez (10-4) cruised. Seattle’s ace allowed just two baserunners to reach third, the first coming on Mike Trout’s triple in the third and not again until the eighth. Hernandez didn’t rely on the strikeout and instead let the Angels put the ball in play. Hernandez struck out Albert Pujols twice and got Josh Hamilton and Erick Aybar swinging, but mostly relied on his defense. Hernandez allowed seven hits and didn’t walk a batter.
The 10 victories before the All-Star break are the most in Hernandez’s career. Yoervis Medina pitched the ninth for Seattle.
“Felix did a great job. He had to work hard a couple of innings, but as he usually does, makes pitches and gets through it and gets out of it,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
Smoak had an RBI single in the fourth inning that gave Seattle the lead, then provided the big blow in the sixth to cap a two-out rally. Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager both singled and after Weaver received a visit from pitching coach Mike Butcher, Smoak hit the first pitch out to center field for his eighth homer of the season. The four RBIs were the most for Smoak since he drove in a career-high six runs on May 30, 2012, against Texas.
Smoak’s long ball was the 21st straight game with at least one homer for the Mariners, the longest streak for an American League team since the Rangers set the major league record with 27 straight in 2002.
“Everybody has been busting our chops on offense and rightfully so but I think you’ve got to give these kids kudos for that,” Wedge said.
Seattle first got to Weaver (3-5) in the fourth when Morales and Seager had consecutive singles. Seager’s hit extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Smoak then capped a 10-pitch at-bat by lining a change-up from Weaver into right field. Third-base coach Daren Brown made the wrong call in sending Morales from second and the throw from Hamilton easily beat the runner. But catcher Hank Conger failed to catch the throw cleanly and Morales scored. Conger was originally given an error, but the scoring decision was changed and Smoak was credited with an RBI.
Morales and Seager were at the center of the Mariners’ rally in the sixth with two-out hits that set the stage for Smoak’s 411-foot shot to center field. During his 10-pitch at-bat in the fourth, Smoak saw mostly offspeed pitches, so he had a feeling a fastball could be coming.
“I was thinking he was going to try and sneak a fastball in there first pitch and I was able to put a good swing on it,” Smoak said.
Seattle added two more in the seventh on a wild pitch and an RBI single from Raul Ibanez.
Weaver had allowed just two earned runs combined in his previous three starts, but Seattle raised his pitch count early. Weaver had thrown 107 pitches when he left after 5 2-3 innings, his shortest start since June 10 against Baltimore.
“It goes both ways. I think if we had gotten on the board it might have let (Weaver) do a couple of things,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was pitching with his back against the wall.”
Smoak now has five career games with four or more RBIs. … Seattle RHP Stephen Pryor threw a second simulated game on Saturday and could be headed for a rehab assignment with Single-A Everett next week. OF Michael Morse (quad) is still not ready for a rehab assignment, manager Eric Wedge said. … Angels RHP Tommy Hanson (forearm) threw a simulated game on Saturday and could be headed out on a rehab start next weekend following another bullpen session, manager Mike Scioscia said.
Normally division championships are celebrated with champagne showers in the locker room. The Spokane Indians settled for cheering and high fives on a crowded bus.
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