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Seattle Mariners

Seattle’s Felix Hernandez makes case for All-Star start

Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez celebrated after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning of Thursday night’s win. (Associated Press)
Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

SEATTLE – Hey, Ned: Were you watching what took place Thursday night when the Seattle Mariners pulled away late for a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels?

Felix Hernandez put on a de facto audition for a second straight All-Star start by pitching seven shutout innings against the Angels, who had won nine of their previous 10 games.

Hernandez (11-5) is one of just five starting pitchers on the American League staff; and he’s lined up perfectly for a Tuesday start in Cincinnati – should Kansas City manager Ned Yost be so inclined.

“For me, it would be an honor,” Hernandez said. “I’d love to start the game. We’ll see.”

Yes, it’s probably a long shot, but Thursday saw the King in top form, which is often the case when he faces the Angels. He is 7-1 with a 0.91 ERA against them in 12 starts over the last two years.

Fact is, the Mariners, who finished with a season-high 19 hits, made this tougher than it should have been.

They battered Angels starter Garrett Richards (9-6) for 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, which matched the highest total of his career. But it produced just four runs – in part because two runners were thrown out at home.

Fernando Rodney inherited a 4-0 lead to start the eighth inning against the top of the Angels’ order. He lost the shutout when Kole Calhoun crushed a one-out homer, but Rodney got past Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

The Mariners answered with three runs later in the inning, which meant Vidal Nuno and Danny Farquhar, both recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Tacoma, pitched the ninth instead of Carson Smith.

That wasn’t particularly pretty. The Mariners still had to call on Smith after the Angels scored once and loaded the bases with two outs. Smith got the final out for his sixth save in seven chances.

“I did everything I could not to use him,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It was unfortunate that we had to go to him.”

Hernandez’s only real trouble came in the seventh after Erick Aybar’s one-out bunt single. Hernandez then issued a four-pitch walk to Matt Joyce before loading the bases on a walk to C.J. Cron.

They were Hernandez’s only walks, but he responded by striking out Carlos Perez and retiring pinch-hitter Efren Navarro on a grounder to third.

“Everything was working today,” Hernandez said. “I had a great fastball. The breaking ball was there. Good changeup. I was throwing strikes. I lost it in the seventh a little bit, but I came back and made my pitches.”

The seventh inning closed the book on Felix at 104 pitches. He allowed five hits, two walks and six strikeouts. His ERA dipped to 2.84.

“It may fall into place for him,” said McClendon, who will serve as a coach on the A.L. staff. “I don’t think I have to make any type of statement when it comes to Felix and what he’s capable of doing.

“If it was me, I’d start him.”

The Mariners started with a bang. Logan Morrison led off the first with a 442-foot homer to center on a 3-1 fastball from Richards.

Leading 2-0, the Mariners scored twice in the fourth. Seth Smith and Dustin Ackley led off with singles before a walk to Mark Trumbo loaded the bases with no outs. Brad Miller and Mike Zunino produced runs with sacrifice flies.

It stayed 4-0 until the eighth.

“I think guys are starting to feel better at the plate,” Zunino said. “When we can piece together good at-bats from the top of the order to the bottom, we’ll have productive nights like this.”