Felix Hernandez did Sunday what he could not do in the Mariners’ previous long losing streak — halt it. Pitching eight strong innings in which he yielded seven hits, two runs and one walk, Hernandez led a 6-2 victory at Minnesota that stopped a four-game losing streak.
He struck out five on 97 pitches before being relieved by Fernando Rodney, who faced four batters in the ninth to preserve the win in front of 32,511 at Target Field.
The victory ended a streak second only to an eight-gamer in April. During that stretch, Hernandez pitched twice and was unable to halt the slide when an error-filled blown save in Texas cost a win, and again in Houston when a sick Hernandez was not sharp.
Hernandez improved to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.94. The offense helped with six unanswered runs.
Robinson Cano was one of two catalysts, thanks to a 4-for-5 afternoon, in which he posted a double, an RBI and scored two runs. The other was Michael Saunders, who capped a strong series with a 2-for-4 day including a triple and two RBI.
Those two helped lift an offense that righted itself slightly against Twins’ starter Ricky Nolasco, who entered with his own struggles. Nolasco, 31, came in sporting a 5.51 ERA despite a win in his last outing over Boston. Seattle pushed the righthander out after five innings in which he allowed three runs on six hits and walked three. It wasn’t the greatest outpouring of offense for the Mariners ( 21-22), who left six runners on base against Nolasco, but it did the job.
Minnesota opened the scoring with two runs in the third inning via a two-out, two-RBI single by Trevor Plouffe.
Seattle began to chip away. The offense scored one run in the fourth inning when Cano came around to score on Kyle Seager’s RBI single. They again squandered an opportunity for a big inning when Brad Miller struck out looking with the bases loaded.
Two more runs the next inning provided a 3-2 lead. James Jones led off with an infield single, stole second and scored on an RBI triple by Saunders. Cano followed with an RBI double, scoring Saunders. Insurance runs came in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings.
After a day off, Seattle heads to Texas for two starting Tuesday. It likely will be without designated hitter Corey Hart, who was lifted in the fourth inning after he injured his hamstring stealing second base.
OF/1B Logan Morrison will likely be sent out on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment in the next couple of days . . . Coming off their outings Saturday, both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton will pitch simulated games Tuesday.