ARLINGTON, Texas – Ken Griffey Jr. was drafted by the Seattle Mariners less than a year after Texas starter Tommy Hunter was born.
On Saturday night, Griffey added the rookie to the long list of pitchers he’s homered against.
Griffey hit his 622nd career home run and Felix Hernandez pitched seven solid innings to lead the Mariners to a 7-2 win over the Texas Rangers.
Griffey’s three-run shot in the first came off Hunter, the 400th different pitcher he has homered off in his career.
“This is as good as I’ve seen him in a while,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Griffey. “He was standing in that box with a lot of confidence.”
Griffey went 3 for 5 for his third three-hit game of the season.
Hunter was born 11 months before Griffey was the top overall pick in the 1987 amateur draft.
“I was fortunate enough to get some hits,” Griffey said. “You’ve got to keep working at it. Everybody thinks that I just showed up.”
Hernandez (12-4) bounced back from his worst effort of the season to win for the fourth time in five starts. The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits as Seattle won for the third time in nine games.
Hernandez said he was fortunate to come out on top against a Rangers team that he has a 6-9 lifetime record against.
“I was disappointed in my performance,” said Hernandez, who walked four and struck out two. “We still won, but I was terrible, I was all over the place.”
The Mariners will have to lean on Hernandez after they traded Jarrod Washburn on Friday and placed Erik Bedard on the disabled list earlier in the week.
“That shows what kind of champion this guy can be,” Wakamatsu said. “You’re going through these stretches where you find other ways to win even when you don’t have your electric fastball.”
Texas is four games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West and trails Boston by 21/2 games in the wild-card chase.
“They swung the bats the well,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “They just beat us tonight.”
Ichiro Suzuki reached on an error leading off the game and Jose Lopez walked to set the stage for Griffey.
He lined a 3-2 pitch from Hunter into the grassy area beyond the center-field fence. It was Griffey’s 11th homer and his first since July 1.
“He took a couple of good pitches,” Hunter said. “I left one out over the plate and he hit it over the fence.”
Griffey doubled leading off the third and scored on Jack Hannahan’s RBI single. The Mariners extended their lead to 5-0 on Ryan Langerhans’ triple to right.
Hunter (3-2) came into the game having gone 3-0 with a 1.11 in his last four outings. The rookie allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings to lose for the first time since June 28.
Cruz had three hits and smacked a 458-foot solo home run to left in the fourth inning, the fourth longest hit at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He also added an RBI single in the sixth.
Lopez had three hits and two RBIs, including a solo homer in the eighth that made it 7-2.
Hernandez, who allowed a season-high seven runs in 52/3 innings Monday against Toronto, received some defensive help in protecting the lead.
In the bottom of the first, Ichiro threw out Omar Vizquel trying to score on Marlon Byrd’s fly ball. Catcher Rob Johnson stretched high to grab Suzuki’s throw from right and quickly dropped to the ground to tag Vizquel.
Langerhans jumped at the left-field wall to take an extra-base hit from David Murphy in the third.
The Mariners activated newly acquired Luke French and will start the left-hander on Wednesday night at Kansas City. To make room for French, the team designated infielder Chris Shelton for assignment.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.