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 plenty and then some.
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. They’ve won 11 of their last 15 games.
Hernandez, who was winless in his last four starts and looked almost human in them, looked closer to his all-star self, improving to 4-1 on the season.
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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 wasn’t quite perfect, but he still got the win. The numbers could have been even better. He cruised through six innings, allowing just four hits and no runs.
“I thought he threw the ball exceptionally for the first six innings,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
But in the seventh, things went a little 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 double to the left-center gap to Ryan Hanigan that scored three runs and ended his night.
As McClendon waited for reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, an angry Hernandez vented his frustrations to plate umpire Mark Ripperger about his strike zone for the game, particularly some missed calls in that inning. Ripperger, who is normally a Class AAA umpire, ejected him.
It wasn’t any one pitch that incensed Hernandez.
“I think it was quite a few pitches,” McClendon said. “I think it probably started from the first inning on.”
That buildup came to a head.
“I kind of knew it was going to happen cause he wasn’t happy, but I gotta take the ball and give it to the next guy,” McClendon said.
By then it was too late.
“I’m sure he got his money’s worth,” McClendon chuckled. “I didn’t understand everything he said.”
So what did he say?
“I was asking about the Miami Heat score,” Hernandez joked.
Hernandez wouldn’t let on much more than that, not wanting to get fined for anything besides the ejection.
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.
Hernandez didn’t want to have any runs next to his name. But he had no regrets for the ejection.
“I’m a pro baseball player now, I’ve got my first ejection,” he said.
But that 9-0 lead after three innings allowed plenty of wiggle room.
“That’s called being sub-optimal,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the big lead.
Seattle (20-18) grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning, jumping all over Ramos from his first pitch. Robinson Cano and Corey Hart both drove in runs by hitting balls that landed on the painted area on the very top of the wall.
That lead ballooned to 8-0 in the second inning. Mike Zunino provided the Mariners with a no doubter, hammering his sixth homer of the season deep into the right-field seats.
The Mariners then added four more runs thanks to three Tampa Bay errors, an RBI double from Romero, a sacrifice fly from Cano and a run-scoring single from Kyle Seager.