Felix Hernandez (5-2) threw eight more dominant innings and parlayed an unlikely solo home run from Jesus Montero into a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday in a game in which the Mariners scratched out only three hits, none before the fifth inning. Seattle snapped a two-game losing streak and finished its road trip 3-2.
Hernandez’s victory was his fourth in a row and fifth of the season. He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked one among his 97 pitches, lowering his ERA to 1.53, the best of his career after eight starts.
Hernandez has made 50 career starts of at least 8.0 innings while allowing one or fewer runs, and 67 such starts while allowing two or fewer, most in the majors since Hernandez made his major league debut in 2005. Hernandez is also 6-0 in his last six road interleague starts.
After Hernandez departed after eight innings, Tom Wilhelmsen notched his ninth save in nine opportunities.
For five innings, it appeared that Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett would prevail in a battle of aces that justified the billing. Burnett did not surrender a hit until one out in the fifth, when Endy Chavez got aboard on an infield single. He also registered eight strikeouts over that span, most of them with a filthy curve that ultimately proved his undoing.
The Pirates got to Fernandez in the first, scoring on an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen following Starling Marte’s double. The Mariners squared it in the fourth without collecting a hit.
After Michael Saunders walked, Burnett sent him to second with a wild pitch, a curve in the dirt. Saunders reached third on a ground ball by Kendrys Morales and scored on Burnett’s second wild pitch of the inning.
The Mariners had a scoring opportunity in the sixth when Saunders reached third with one out, but Jason Bay hit a weak grounder to Burnett and Kendrys Morales fanned.
The Mariners finally broke through in the seventh when Montero, batting a Mendoza-ish .197 with just two homers and eight RBIs, homered to center on the first pitch, giving Seattle its second hit.
The Mariners finished with three hits, two by Chavez — they had five Monday in a 4-1 loss – and had an in-game batting average of .100. They also went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded six. Most of their futility was attributable to Burnett, who allowed two earned runs on two hits over 7.0 innings with nine strikeouts. But he walked four and his two wild pitches beat him.
The Mariners take Thursday off and begin a three-game series Friday night against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field. Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 1.61) will work opposite RHP Dan Straily (1-0, 5.94). Following the Oakland series, the Mariners take a nine-game road trip, during which they will play the Yankees, Indians and Angels.