Mitch Haniger’s shot in the seventh inning was changed after replay, but the Mariners prevailed behind a strong start from Felix Hernandez.
Given the current state of the struggling Mariners, having a three-run homer turned into an RBI single and a three-run cushion reduced to just a one-run margin seemed like a perfect recipe for another soul-crushing loss in what has been a frustrating April.
Instead, the Mariners persevered through the bad break.
Given a brilliant start from Felix Hernandez and the go-ahead homer turned single from Mitch Haniger and a save that wasn’t lacking for drama from Edwin Diaz, the Mariners picked up a much-needed 2-1 win over the Rangers on Friday night.
Rangers at Mariners, 6:10 p.m., ROOT
“We haven’t played well for the first 10 games and we do need to get rolling,” manager Scott Servais said. “I think more than confidence, it shows the character of our guys. We came in very determined tonight. Our intensity level was much higher, and it needs to be. They are all aware of it. It’s where we are at now. We need to get this turned around.”
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Hernandez delivered his best outing of the young season, showing excellent command and the pitch efficiency the Mariners have craved.
Hernandez pitched 71/3 innings, giving up one run on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. He threw just 89 pitches with 63 strikes to pick up his first win.
“I can’t enough about what Felix did,” Servais said. “He took command of the game and the strike zone.”
Call it Felix 2.0 — fewer strikeouts, more efficiency.
“I like the new-look Felix,” Servais said. “I’ll take the seven and a third and keeping them right there and being very efficient with his pitches. Outstanding effort. He’s really been locked in.”
With a packed house and a King’s Court chanting for strikeouts, Hernandez remained efficient, flooding the strike zone with fastballs and getting soft contact.
“He’s maturing,” Servais said.
Hernandez seemed pleased with himself.
“We had a good game plan,” he said. “We just go after hitters and pound the strike zone. It was really good. That’s what I like. I was around the zone. They were swinging early and I got a lot of quick outs.”
The high-and-low of Haniger’s hijacked homer came in the seventh inning with the game tied at 1 and the Mariners doing their best to remind people of their struggles with runners in scoring position, including three straight strikeouts with a runner on second the inning before.
Haniger, who has been perhaps the Mariners’ most productive hitter early in the season, hit a fly ball to left field off reliever Jose Leclerc that hit near the fans at the top of the wall and bounced back.
“Off the bat, I didn’t know,” Haniger said. “I was just trying to get into the air and get a sac fly. I didn’t really know.”
Third-base umpire C.B. Bucknor signaled for a homer, and Safeco exploded in celebration.
Haniger had barely finished getting congratulations from his teammates in the dugout following what was initially ruled a three-run homer to left field when the first replay appeared on the Mariners’ massive big screen.
The fly ball that appeared to become a souvenir in Edgar’s Cantina had not quite entered the establishment. It was stopped short like an underage kid with a fake ID.
Not only was the homer taken away, but because Guillermo Heredia was tagging at first base and only got to second on the play when the ball bounced back in, Haniger was given just a single. It was miscue by Heredia.
Following the almost three-minute delay and plenty of booing from the crowd of 41,855, the Mariners tried to get back the two runs they had lost to the replay. They still had runners on first and second with no outs and Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz coming to the plate. They left the inning with just the one-run lead. Facing lefty Dario Alvarez, Cano popped up to shortstop. The Rangers brought in right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to face Cruz. It resulted in broken-bat, 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Diaz closed out the win for his second save, despite giving up a two-out single to Elvis Andrus.