SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez’s run of bad starts ended on Monday night amid a plethora of Mariners runs.
His teammates, who’ve often been accused of not supplying him with decent run support in the past, provided more than enough.
The Mariners scored nine runs in the first three innings off Rays’ starter Cesar Ramos, allowing their ace to get his groove back and pitch with relative ease in an eventful 12-5 win.
Hernandez, who was winless in his last four starts and looked almost human, looked somewhat closer to his all-star self, cruising through the Rays’ lineup with business-like efficiency.
Of course, Hernandez has had his share of success against the Rays. His previous start against Tampa was, well, perfect. The last time he faced the Rays was on Aug. 15, 2012, at Safeco Field. He faced 27 batters and retired all 27 in order for his first career perfect game.
Hernandez (4-1) wasn’t quite perfect, but he still got the win. The numbers could have been even better. He threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits.
But in the seventh, things went awry. Hernandez gave up three straight singles to start the inning and load the bases. He came back to strike out Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar. But he gave up a two-strike double to the left-center gap to Ryan Hanigan. Manager Lloyd McClendon pulled Hernandez, who was not pleased with plate umpire Mark Ripperger, who he felt missed some borderline pitches that would have struck Hanigan out. He had words for Ripperger, who is normally a Class AAA umpire, and was ejected.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a hit allowing Hanigan to score, so Hernandez was charged with four earned runs in 62/3 innings. He allowed eight hits and struck out seven.
But that 9-0 lead allowed plenty of wiggle room.
Seattle (20-18) grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning, jumping all over Ramos from his first pitch. James Jones started with a leadoff double and scored on Stefen Romero’s line drive single to right. Romero advanced to second on an error and scored on Robinson Cano’s double off the very top of the wall in left field. The ball landed exactly on the yellow stripe painted on top of the wall. McClendon asked for a replay ruling and the on-field call was upheld.
In a stroke of coincidence, Corey Hart followed with a fly ball deep to right field. His ball also landed on the very top of the painted area. Cano scored, but Hart did not get a double. Thinking it was out, he started into his home-run trot a little soon and was thrown out at second.
McClendon again asked for a review—not considered a challenge. The umpires looked at the replay and the call was upheld. Still, the Mariners had an early 3-0 lead.
That lead ballooned to 8-0 in the second inning. After a couple of near homers the inning before, Mike Zunino provided the Mariners with a no doubter, hammering his sixth homer of the season deep into the right-field seats to start the inning.
The Mariners then added four more runs thanks to three Tampa Bay errors, an RBI double from Romero, a sac fly from Cano and an RBI single from Kyle Seager.
The Mariners added another run in the third Hart’s single.
Even with all the hits and runs allowed, Ramos remained in the game, “wearing the loss” and pitching into the seventh.
He actually retired 11 straight hitters after the third inning.
Seattle hit double figures in the eighth inning. Romero checked in with his third and hardest hit of the night, blasting a solo home run off the facade of the upper deck in left field. Two batters later, Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer into the Mariners bullpen.