By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
HOUSTON – It took more starts than he wanted, but Felix Hernandez finally got his 100th career win.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that win No. 100 would come soon after he notched win No. 99 on the opening day of the season.
But it didn’t.
A mediocre start in Chicago, a subpar start at home against Texas and a brilliant start against the Detroit Tigers netted nothing but two losses and a no decision. Of course, the Mariners usual lack of run support didn’t help his cause.
But that all changed on Monday. Playing the hapless Houston Astros, Hernandez seemed like a lock to get the landmark win. And his teammates made it a little easier by actually scoring a few runs.
Hernandez pitched six scoreless innings, striking out nine and his teammates hit three home runs — that’s not a typo — in a 7-1 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“Finally,” Hernandez said. “It took too long. I felt great. I had to do it tonight.”
He did leave the game after just 97 pitches with a slightly stiff back, but he said it was nothing to worry about.
“It happens,” he said. “I’m fine.”
Up 7-0 at the time, there was no reason to chance it.
“It’s something that comes up from time to time with guys,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “I didn’t want to take chances with it and got him out of there.”
The bullpen did give up a run, but the trio of Carter Capps, Oliver Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen made sure Hernandez got his win.
Hernandez is only the third pitcher to win 100 games in a Mariners uniform. He joined Jamie Moyer (145) and Randy Johnson (130).
“I didn’t know that,” Hernandez said. “It’s an honor to be part of this list.”
Hernandez got a different honor postgame as he was served up the customary beer shower that teams use for celebrations. However, the Mariners used more than beer. There’s ketchup and other condiments, baby powder, shaving cream and anything within reach.
“Man, that was unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “That was bad. There will be payback.”
Actually it was payback to Hernandez for his antics in those celebrations.
“I was the one who threw all the ketchup,” said his catcher Jesus Montero. “He’s the worst. That’s why I did that. He’s the guy who throws the powder and everything.”
As Hernandez walked by fresh from the shower, he said, “Thanks a lot Montero.”
Postgame antics aside, for Hernandez to reach 100 wins at age 27 is quite a feat.
“It’s a great accomplishment and I’m glad it’s behind him,” Wedge said. “It’s something you can’t not help but think about as a pitcher or a player. I was really happy for him to do that. He’s accomplished so much for a young man.”
Still, Hernandez was going to win that 100th game soon. It was a given. He’s too good not to. But the Mariners scoring seven runs in a game with five extra base hits?
For one night Seattle looked a lot like the club that pummeled the ball in spring training. More importantly, the Mariners got contributions from players who had been struggling early in the season.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead off Astros starter Brad Peacock in the first inning. The white-hot Kyle Seager came up with a one-out single to extend his hitting streak to a career-high eleven games. Kendrys Morales drew a walk to move him to second and Seager advanced to third on a passed ball.
Justin Smoak, who came into the game not having driven in a run in 10 straight games, yanked a ball down the first base line that went off Carlos Pena’s glove for an RBI single.
But it was just the start
Seager crushed a two-run homer into the upper deck in right field in the third inning.
Montero destroyed a baseball in the fourth inning, crushing a 430-foot home run off the back wall in left-center.
“I was trying to move the runner, for real,” Montero said. “Just try and hit it to right field. But I hit that ball pretty well.”
And so it continued.
Morales homered in the fifth inning and Montero added a sacrifice fly as well.
“It’s important to jump out early, but it’s important to keep going and to separate,” Wedge said. “I thought our guys did a good job with that. We drove the ball better today than we have in a week or so.”
The Mariners scored seven runs in five innings, after scoring just three in 27 innings in Texas.
Where has this offense been?
“It goes back to what we were talking about before the game,” Wedge said. “They did a better job on pitches in the zone and being ready to hit. Because of that focus and aggressiveness, they were able to lay off some pitches we’ve been swinging at. That’s the kind of combination we’ve been looking for.”
Smoak went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, Dustin Ackley went 3-for-4 with a double and Montero went 1-for-3 with the homer and three RBI. The Mariners need those guys to produce to have any sort of success this season. Could this one game help?
“Any time you get hits, it’s going to help your confidence,” Seager said. “Any time you see the ball drop, it helps your confidence. Those guys are working hard. Hopefully this will be the start of us really starting to hit the ball well.”
Wedge believes it will.
“That was an indicator of what we are capable of doing and what we know we should be doing and what we can do,” he said.
If there was a downside to the night, it was center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who was injured in fourth inning on a diving catch attempt.
Wedge said he suffered an injury to the upper right hamstring and said a trip to the disabled list is probably needed. Outfielder Carlos Peguero was taken out of the Tacoma Rainiers game in Salt Lake City. He appears to be the roster replacement for Gutierrez.