The Mariners pile up 13 runs against the best team in baseball, clubbing the Astros 13-3 as Felix Hernandez makes his return from the disabled list.
There might not be a more appropriate judge of the Mariners’ offense than Felix Hernandez, because for so many lost seasons, inept and ineffective offenses left him out to dry.
He never said it, but he didn’t have to: The Mariners’ offense cost him plenty over the years.
So it was a fitting symbol of the current life and times of the M’s that on Friday, against the first-place Astros, Hernandez picked up his 157th career win, the most by a Venezuelan-born pitcher, partly because his offense exploded.
“This lineup’s a little scary,” Hernandez said.
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The Mariners beat the Astros 13-3 for their sixth straight win. They are 39-37 and right in the thick of the hunt for the American League wild card.
And they have an offense that is only looking more dangerous, highlighted by the 16-hit, 13-run night in Hernandez’s long-awaited return (he gave up three runs in six innings).
“No pressure on anybody,” manager Scott Servais said. “I think that’s what happens when a whole lineup is moving together really well.”
When Servais talks about the lineup having more “length” to it with a full complement of players, what he’s really talking about is what happened in the third inning.
That was the inning the Mariners buried the first-place Astros, the inning that showed how dangerous the Mariners — the healthy Mariners — can be.
Ben Gamel led off with a single, Nelson Cruz singled, Kyle Seager walked, Mitch Haniger drove in a run with a single, Danny Valencia drove in two more runs with a single and Mike Zunino, who has turned the month of June into his personal showcase, capped the inning with a mammoth three-run home run.
Six runs in all, from all corners of the lineup.
“We’re talking about all those guys around the core — the Cano, Cruz, Seager pocket in our lineup,” Servais said. “That’s what it takes. When you start looking at the lineups around the American League, teams that can really put runs up and put pressure on other teams’ pitching staffs, I like ours a lot right now. And our guys do, too.”
It’s fitting that Zunino delivered the decisive blow considering how good he’s been in June. Zunino has 29 RBI this month, four short of the club record for most RBI in a month (Edgar Martinez had 32 in 1995). And he still has a week to play.
He hit his 10th home run this season, all since being recalled from the minors on May 22. Only two other American League catchers have more home runs this season, and all but one of Zunino’s home runs have come in June.
He added a double later for good measure.
The Mariners entered the night third in the American League in runs, so the offense has been, quite often, dangerous. But it has rarely been fully healthy. As Servais pointed out recently, a lineup with speedster Jarrod Dyson eighth and Zunino ninth is pretty potent.
Dyson (two doubles) and Zunino (a double and a home run) had multiple extra-base hits.
“You can go up and down the lineup,” Servais said. “It’s starting to be a different guy every night.”
Dyson also did one of the more unusual things you’ll see from a base runner, a singular display of his speed and the reason the Mariners value him.
In the seventh inning, Danny Valencia was on third, Dyson on second. A wild pitch kicked away from Houston catcher Brian McCann. Valencia scored easily from third, as expected. Dyson never slowed down, rounded third and slid home to also score on the play.
For emphasis: Dyson scored a run from second base on a wild pitch.
“I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not,” Dyson said. “That was just a last-minute thing.”
Another example of the lineup’s potential was the fourth inning.
Ben Gamel hit a solo home run to the lead off the inning, and Kyle Seager followed with a solo home run of his own. That’s the kind of the depth the Mariners envisioned having at the start of the season, a lineup that could inflict damage at any point.
Hernandez was solid in his return, giving up three runs in six innings, including two home runs. In a weird twist from so many seasons of the past, he was plenty good enough for all the run support.
And there’s this: The Mariners scored 13 runs without getting a hit from Robinson Cano.
Yovani Gallardo picked up a three-inning save in his first relief appearance in a decade and Gamel extended his hitting streak to 15 games while also hitting a solo home run.
“Good things happening right now,” Gamel said. “No doubt about it.”
Mariners shortstop Jean Segura left the game in the seventh inning after he doubled. But Servais said that was just to be cautious as Segura is still recovering from a high-ankle sprain that sent him to the DL.
“Segura’s OK,” Servais said. “He’s not at 100 percent. When it’s time to run hard and score from second on a base hit, I feel pretty confident that he can do that. But we had a big lead in the game. Let’s get him out of there, get some ice on it and get him ready to go for tomorrow.”