Seattle hits three solo homers to fuel Felix Hernandez’ fifth victory

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — So, if this is going to be a thing for Nelson Cruz and Logan Morrison, maybe they should have some runners on base when it happens to maximize the effect.

For the third time this season, Cruz and Morrison homered in the same inning — belting solo shots in the seventh inning of the Mariners’ 3-2 victory Monday over the Los Angeles Angels.

The duo did it twice during Seattle’s miserable series against the Astros, but unlike all the defeats in Houston, the Mariners prevailed Monday, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Sadly all six of the homers by Cruz and Morrison on those occasions accounted for one run apiece because the bases were empty. And of Seattle’s 34 homers this season, 27 have been solo shots.

However, on a night when the Mariners were fighting just to get a runner on base against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker, the solos would more than suffice.

Shoemaker had been cruising along for six innings, allowing just one hit — a Kyle Seager single to left in the second inning.

And he was shutting down the big hitters. Cruz had struck out in two at-bats against Shoemaker.

“He was tough,” Cruz said. “He wasn’t giving me much.”

Shoemaker was up 1-2 on Cruz to start the seventh, but he left a changeup over the inside part of the plate, belt-high. Cruz, recently named American League Player of the Month for April and the most dangerous hitter in baseball right now, isn’t going to miss that pitch.

Cruz yanked a line drive well inside the left-field foul pole for his 14th homer of the season. He now has four home runs four days into the month of May. Cruz is just one of five players in MLB history to hit 14 homers in his first 26 games of a season.

“I think it was the only pitch that he left up to Cruz all day,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Two batters later, Morrison jumped all over a 1-0 changeup from Shoemaker, depositing it into the right-field seats to make it 2-0.

“That’d be nice,” Morrison said of homering in every inning Cruz does going forward. “I think we’d be in good shape. You got to take advantage of your opportunities when you get them against pitchers like that.”

A 2-0 lead seemed like plenty for Mariners starter Felix Hernandez. Heck, he’s used to working with less. The Seattle ace allowed his lead to be trimmed to 2-1 when Matt Joyce homered in the bottom of the seventh.

But the Mariners answered with another solo shot as Seth Smith homered in the eighth to make it 3-1.

That run became very important because closer Fernando Rodney made it interesting in the ninth, giving up a one-out solo home run to David Freese to make it 3-2. Rodney then walked Joyce to put the tying run on first. But the game ended moments later when pinch runner Collin Cowgill attempted to steal second base. Instead, Mike Zunino fired a perfect throw to second to get Cowgill for the final out. Rodney notched his eighth save of the season.

“We called for a slide step,” McClendon said, referring to Rodney quickening his delivery with no leg kick on the pitch to help Zunino.

“If he doesn’t slide step there, it definitely would be much closer,” Zunino said. “(Cowgill) would have two or three extra steps on his jump.”

Hernandez improved to 5-0 on the season.

He worked seven innings, giving up one run on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. It was the second time this year he’s stopped a Seattle four-game losing streak.

“That’s a true No. 1,” McClendon said. “That’s what they’re built for, what they’re made for and he certainly did a hell of a job for us tonight.”

In the process, he became the career leader for strikeouts for a Venezuelan pitcher, passing Johan Santana with his second strikeout of the game.

“To pass a guy like that, it’s an honor,” Hernandez said. “Johan is one of the greatest lefties in the game. But to me it’s all about the game and we got the win.”

He wasn’t invincible. The Angels had some scoring chances against him. In the fourth inning, they had runners on first and second with two outs, but Joyce’s hard fly ball to right field was run down by Cruz.

In the sixth inning, Mike Trout led off with a single on a poorly located 0-2 changeup.

But any potential trouble was averted when the Mariners doubled off a stealing Trout at first base. Albert Pujols hit a liner to right field, which was easily caught by Cruz. Trout tried to retreat and get back safely, but Cruz’s strong throw was gloved on the short hop by Morrison for the double play.