Felix Hernandez improved to 5-0 to begin a season, a career first, striking out eight Angels in a 3-2 victory Monday in Anaheim, averting a season-high five-game losing streak for the Mariners (box score). All runs came on solo homers — Nelson Cruz, Logan Morrison and Seth Smith for the Mariners, Matt Joyce and David Freese for the Angels.
The Mariners (11-15) and Angels (11-15) are tied in the season series 3-3.
The seventh inning had two: Cruz with his major league-leading 14th homer, and one out later, Morrison with his fourth. Up to those points, starter Matt Shoemaker had held the Mariners to one single (Kyle Seager), a walk and a hit batter.
Cruz became the fifth player in MLB history to hit 14 homers in the season’s first 26 games. No one has hit 15 in 27. The other four: Cy Williams (1923 Phillies), Mike Schmidt (1976 Phillies), Albert Pujols (2006 Cardinals) and Alex Rodriguez (2007 Yankees). Entering the game, Cruz led the majors in several offensive categories, including home runs (13), RBI (25), slugging percentage (.788) and OPS (1.170).
Morrison and Cruz also combined on a 9-4 double play in the sixth when Mike Trout ran too far from first on a flyout to right. Cruz’s throw and Morrison’s pick were perfect.
Smith’s homer in the eighth proved the game-winner.
Hernandez was lifted after seven innings and 102 pitches. He gave up six singles, but the only score was a solo homer to Joyce, his first, in the seventh. Carson Smith gave up a hit but no runs in the eighth. Former Angel Fernando Rodney, who didn’t pitch the four-game sweep by the Astros, earned his eighth save despite a home run to Freese with one out, then a walk with two out. But C Mike Zunino cut down a pinch runner attempting to steal second to end the game.
Manager Lloyd McClendon, on Cruz’s home run: “That was pretty big — their pitcher (Shoemaker) was pitching pretty well. He had us shut down. Probably that was the only pitch he left up to Cruz all day.”
With Hernandez on the mound, the Mariners are 8-0 vs. the Angels dating back to Sept. 22, 2013 (he is 5-0) . . . Before Monday, over his last eight starts vs. the Angels (since 8/23/13), Hernandez had 77 strikeouts for a 13.59 K/9.0 IP average . . . With two first-inning strikeouts, Hernandez became the all-time strikeout leader among Venezuelan-born players, breaking a tie with Johan Santana . . . Mariners won the season series last year 12-7, but lost two of three in the season-opening series in Seattle . . . Mariners have won eighth of their past 12 in Anaheim . . . McClendon said before the game that in the injury absence of CF Austin Jackson, Justin Ruggiano will get the majority of starts in center. Also, Brad Miller might play the outfield besides short. McClendon cautioned that Miller is not the fall guy for the team’s offensive travail: “He’s not the forgotten man. He’s certainly not the culprit in all of this.”
The second in the three-game series is 7 p.m. Tuesday: LHP James Paxton (0-2, 5.74) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (2-1, 3.00).