SEATTLE (AP) — Felix Hernandez waited until the seventh game of the regular season to finally take the mound, and that felt foreign to Seattle’s former ace.
It may have provided a little bit of motivation as well.
“It’s been tough,” Hernandez said. “But got my debut for 2019. Got to get going.”
Hernandez allowed one earned run and pitched into the sixth inning for his first victory since June, and the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-3 on Monday night.
This wasn’t King Felix of the past. He’s no longer that pitcher, after he was demoted to the No. 5 spot in Seattle’s rotation following a career-worst season in 2018. But his initial outing in the new season was a positive sign the Mariners were hoping to see from the nearly 33-year-old.
He worked ahead of hitters, throwing strikes early in the count. He didn’t walk a batter. He overcame adversity with Seattle’s defense committing four errors. Most important, the big inning that showed up regularly last season never materialized.
With the King’s Court fan section at his back, Hernandez (1-0) allowed seven hits. He struck out four and earned his first victory since June 30, 2018. Hernandez went his final 11 starts of last season without a win. He was charged with two unearned runs.
The Mariners will take that quality of an outing every time Hernandez is on the hill.
“I thought he stayed with the plan he had going into the game. I know he wanted to get the curveball going, but still using the fastball enough,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “The curveball and changeup those are his weapons. You can only really get going with that when you get ahead in the count, and that’s what he did pretty well tonight.”
Seattle’s bullpen was also solid, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only two baserunners — including an intentional walk to Mike Trout. Roenis Elias pitched the ninth for his first save.
Jay Bruce homered for the third straight game, hitting a two-run shot in the seventh inning. Seattle has 16 home runs and has scored at least five runs in all seven games.
Seattle scored four times in the first inning off starter Chris Stratton (0-1), including RBI singles by Domingo Santana and Omar Narvaez and a two-run double by AL player of the week Tim Beckham. The Mariners missed chances to extend the lead, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and runners at second and third in the sixth.
Bruce didn’t miss Hansel Robles’ pitch, homering in three straight games for the 12th time in his career.
Albert Pujols doubled in the fourth inning for the 640th of his career, moving into a tie with Honus Wagner for ninth on the career list. The Angels scored twice in the fourth inning helped by a pair of errors from Narvaez, but were shutdown otherwise. The Angels have scored three or fewer runs in four of five games.
“We’re not clicking on all cylinders offensively. And it can be tough on pitchers if you’re constantly trying to hold a team,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “So it would be nice to jump on a team early from an offensive standpoint and maybe let their pitching staff have to worry about holding us.”
Angels pitcher Andrew Heany underwent a CT scan on his left elbow Monday and was diagnosed as having normal chronic wear in his pitching elbow, general manager Billy Eppler said. Heany will undergo a cortisone injection and should be cleared to resume his throwing program in the next seven-to-10 days. Eppler said Heany won’t completely start over his throwing program but will take some time before he’s back on the mound.
Seattle made a minor trade Monday, acquiring right-handed reliever Connor Sadzeck from Texas in exchange for minor league pitcher Grant Anderson. Sadzeck will add depth to a bullpen that was Seattle’s biggest question entering the season. Sadzeck was designated for assignment by Texas on March 28. He appeared in 13 games last season with the Rangers, but has struggled with control.
Seattle transferred reliever Hunter Strickland to the 60-day injured list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Angels: Trevor Cahill (0-1) looks to rebound from a rough start in the season opener when he allowed four earned runs in six innings against Oakland. He has a 3.40 ERA in his career against Seattle.
Mariners: Marco Gonzales (2-0) makes his third start of the season. Gonzales has allowed three earned runs in both of his starts pitching into or through the sixth inning in both.