The King’s Court was rocking on a Saturday night when Felix Hernandez looked like the King Felix of old. He tossed eight quality innings and the Mariners used back-to-back home runs in the seventh to pull away to an 8-2 win over Milwaukee at Safeco Field (box). Seattle (66-56) moved to within one game of Baltimore in the race for an AL wild card spot and is 10 games over .500 for the first time since the Mariners were 28-18 in late May.
Back-to-back homers from C Mike Zunino and CF Leonys Martin in the seventh gave Seattle some cushion with a 4-0 lead. The runs looked as if they might come in handy when Hernandez lost his stuff in the eighth, allowing a pair of runs. But a four-run counter-punch in the eighth assured Seattle’s 12th win in 15 games.
Hernandez was vintage over the first seven innings, keeping the Brewers scoreless before he tired in the eighth. Three hits and a pair of runs – the first on a Ryan Braun double that resulted from RF Shawn O’Malley taking a bad path to the ball – ended the shutout. He allowed seven hits, walking off the mound with a 4-2 lead before the Mariners added four runs in the eighth.
Former closer Steve Cishek, in his first appearance since returning from the DL, came on in the ninth for a 1-2-3 inning.
Zunino went 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs. LF Norichika Aoki provided most of the offense early, with three hits and two RBIs in his first three at-bats. His RBI single in the third inning put the Mariners up 1-0, then he doubled home the second run in the fifth.
Zunino’s eighth home run and Martin’s 14th gave Seattle back-to-back homers for the fourth time this season. SS Ketel Marte went 2-for-4, and 1B Adam Lind had an RBI double.
“I’m getting better every time out there.” — Hernandez
Closer Edwin Diaz was not available Saturday night, having thrown 61 pitches over two appearances on Wednesday and Friday. Manager Scott Servais said before the game that Diaz needed the night off. He might sit Sunday as well . . . Hernandez went into Saturday’s game with a career interleague record of 21-9. His only previous appearance against the Brewers came in August 2013, when he threw eight shutout innings to beat Milwaukee – and Saturday starter Wily Peralta – 2-0 . . . Seattle’s rotation after the Brewers series is unsettled. What’s clear is that RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to get an extra day of rest before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Yankees. The first two games of that series are TBA, although Cody Martin is expected to start Monday and Taijuan Walker could be recalled from Tacoma to take the mound Tuesday . . . Former Mariner Michael Pineda is scheduled to start for the Yankees Tuesday. The 27-year-old Pineda, shipped to New York in the trade that brought catcher-turned-first baseman-turned-DH-turned-bust Jesus Montero to Seattle, had a 5-4 record and 2.92 ERA during his All-Star season with the Mariners in 2011. He has pitched at Safeco Field once since then, beating Seattle 7-2 in June 2015.
Just in time as the Seattle heat dissipates, the Mariners host a Sunday 1:10 p.m. game to wrap up the series. LHP Ariel Miranda (1-0, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to get his third shot as a starter since being acquired from Baltimore in the Wade Miley trade. The Brewers counter with RHP Matt Garza (4-5, 4.87 ERA). One guy who won’t be pitching? Walker, whose image will be on 20,000 bobblehead dolls. He’ll be on the bench in Tacoma, waiting for his recall from Triple-A.