Home runs by Trout, Murphy delay quest for a 20-win season

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The two Angels hitters with the most success against Felix Hernandez in the past were able to continue it on Tuesday night and put a damper on his quest for 20 wins and the Mariners’ victory hopes.

David Murphy and Mike Trout hit home runs off Hernandez — giving them four each in their career off the Mariners’ ace — and that’s all the offense the Angels would need in a 4-3 win over Seattle at a sparsely populated Safeco Field.

Meanwhile, an early baserunning miscue cost the Mariners a run that might have been useful late.

Both Trout — .344 batting average (21 for 61) — and Murphy — .296 batting average (24 for 81) came into the game having hit Hernandez well in the past, so it wasn’t a complete fluke.

He didn’t pitch poorly and the two homers were probably the two hardest-hit balls he allowed all night.

“I thought Felix had great stuff going into the ballgame tonight,” Seattle manager McClendon said. “He made two bad pitches. And they were the two that counted.”

The Mariners gave Hernandez a 1-0 lead against Angels starter Nick Tropeano in the first inning. Nelson Cruz crushed a 0-1 slider over the wall in center field for his 42nd home run of the season — tied for the most in all of baseball. MLB Statcast measured the homer at 436 feet.

Should it have been a two-run homer, though?

Ketel Marte led off the game with a single to center. He attempted a steal of second on the first pitch to Cruz and was thrown out in a close play.

“I’m looking for a better jump and a better slide and he would have been safe,” McClendon said. “That’s part of the growing pains. We love this kid. Everybody is raving about him, but there’s going to be some mistakes. It ended up costing us.”

Cruz had to settle for his 29th solo homer of the season.

That’s all Seattle would get against Tropeano, who worked five innings and allowed four hits with three walks and five strikeouts for the win.

The 1-0 lead didn’t last long amid some minor controversy in the third inning. Hernandez’s first pitch of the inning rode up and in, grazing the shoulder of David Freese. Freese, who had been hit in a similar spot the night before, was angry about being hit again and yelled a few words at his own dugout, perhaps as a precursor for retaliation.

Seeing that, home-plate umpire Alan Porter called time out and issued warnings to both benches. It left Hernandez with his arms extended, asking “Why?”

“I was surprised,” Hernandez said. “He said it was because Freese said something to the dugout.”

The inning got a little funky from there. Hernandez gave up an infield single to Carlos Perez and struck out Taylor Featherston. But with one out, Murphy was able to golf a low changeup over the wall in right field for a three-run homer. The wall-scraper hit off the top of the padded wall and hopped over for a 3-1 lead for the Angels.

Seattle cut the deficit to one run in the unlikeliest of scenarios — Seth Smith scoring from first base on a single to left field.

With two outs, Smith, whose speed won’t be confused with that of Marte or Trout, was running on contact when Franklin Gutierrez singled into left-center. Murphy took a little time to get to the ball and then fired it into shortstop Erick Aybar, who was in no position to throw home, having assumed Smith would stop at third. Third-base coach Rich Donnelly never hesitated in sending Smith.

“It was a heads-up play by my third-base coach,” McClendon said. “A lot of times, it’s not talked about. When they send somebody and they are out, you question why they sent him. He makes a great send and nobody talks about it.”

The Angels got the run back in the top of the sixth on an uncharacteristic mistake from Hernandez. After getting up 0-2 on Trout, Hernandez tried to elevate a fastball up and in on his hands. But the pitch wasn’t high enough or in enough, and Trout crushed it into the ‘Pen beer garden.

The Mariners made it a one-run game in the seventh inning. Franklin Gutierrez continued his career resurrection, crushing a solo homer to left field off reliever Fernando Salas. Gutierrez’s 13th homer of the season cut the lead to 4-3.

But the Mariners couldn’t come up with the tying run in the eighth or ninth inning, despite putting a runner on base in each.