ANAHEIM, Calif. — Felix Hernandez took the hit and kept on pitching.
Mike Trout delivered an early punch to the stomach of the Seattle Mariners’ ace, belting a two-run homer in the first inning. But the former Cy Young award winner just kept on firing strikes. When the Los Angeles Angels tacked on another run in the third inning on a run-scoring double from Albert Pujols on a ball that should have been caught, Hernandez just kept racking up strikeouts.
And in the end, his teammates rewarded him with yet another opening-day victory to add to his brilliant resume.
Abraham Almonte capped a drawn-out rally with an RBI double in the seventh inning and the Mariners’ bullpen made it stand up in a 10-3 win over the Angels on Monday night at Angels Stadium.
Hernandez, making his club-record seventh start on opening day, pitched six innings, giving up the three runs on four hits with a walk, a wild pitch and 11 strikeouts. He improved to 5-0 and a 1.69 earned-run average in those starts.
But it didn’t look like another opening-day win for Hernandez at the beginning with the Trout homer. It did serve as a good example why Trout might be the best player in baseball — his ability to hit one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The Angels’ do-everything center fielder, fresh off signing a $144.5 million, six-year contract, continued to do something that most people can’t in baseball — hit Hernandez.
Moments after being serenaded by loud cheers and chants of MVP from the sold-out crowd at Angels Stadium, Trout rewarded their affection by blasting a 1-0 pitch from Hernandez over the wall in left field for a two-run homer.
Trout’s success against Hernandez is extraordinary.
Coming into the game, he was hitting .395 (15 for 38) with a 1.036 on-base plus slugging percentage.
The Mariners tried to answer Trout’s first-inning blast in the top of the second inning. Justin Smoak led off the inning with a hard double down the line off Angels starter Jered Weaver. Smoak later advanced to third when Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick booted Kyle Seager’s ground ball. With runners on the corners, Michael Saunders lifted a high fly ball to deep right field, allowing Smoak to tag up and score from third.
Down 3-1 after the third, the Mariners struggled against Weaver, who was changing speeds and keeping them off balance. However, two-out walks to Smoak and Logan Morrison would cost him.
Kyle Seager doubled off the wall in right field, easily scoring Smoak. But Angels right fielder Cole Kalhoun made a brilliant play, catching the ball off the wall and firing a perfect strike to second baseman Kendrick, who fired to home to get Morrison by a few steps.
Dustin Ackley singled off Weaver to start the seventh and Mike Zunino belted a triple off the wall in left field to tie the game at three. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called on Fernando Salas to stop the bleeding, but Almonte ripped a pitch into left-center to give the Mariners’ a 4-3 lead.
Things got a little hairy with the Mariners bullpen. Manager Lloyd McClendon used three different relievers — Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen — to get out of trouble in the seventh inning.
Smoak supplied some cushion with a three-run homer in the ninth and Ackley tacked on a three-run triple.