Seattle Mariners

Hernandez in top form, as Mariners pull away from Angels

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Seattle. AP

Hey, Ned: Were you watching what took place Thursday night when the Seattle Mariners pulled away late for a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels?

Felix Hernandez put on a de facto audition for a second consecutive All-Star start by pitching seven shutout innings against the Angels, who had won nine of their previous 10 games.

Hernandez (11-5) is one of just five starting pitchers on the American League staff; and he’s lined up perfectly for a Tuesday start in Cincinnati — should Kansas City manager Ned Yost be so inclined.

“For me, it would be an honor,” Hernandez admitted. “I’d love to start the game. We’ll see.”

Yes, it’s probably a long shot … but Thursday saw the King in top form, which is often the case when he faces the Angels. He is 7-1 with a 0.91 ERA against them in 12 starts over the past two years.

Fact is, the Mariners, who finished with a season-high 19 hits, made this tougher than it should have been.

They battered Angels starter Garrett Richards (9-6) for 12 hits in 51/3 innings, which matched the highest total of his career. But the outburst produced just four runs — in part because two runners were thrown out at home.

Fernando Rodney inherited a 4-0 lead to start the eighth inning against the top of the Angels’ order. He lost the shutout when Kole Calhoun crushed a one-out homer, but Rodney got past Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

The Mariners then answered with three runs later in the inning, which meant Vidal Nuno and Danny Farquhar, both recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Tacoma, pitched the ninth instead of Carson Smith.

That wasn’t particularly pretty; the Mariners still had to call on Smith after the Angels scored once and loaded the bases with two outs. Smith got the final out for his sixth save in seven chances.

“I did everything I could not to use him,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It was unfortunate that we had to go to him.”

Hernandez’s only real trouble came in the seventh after Erick Aybar’s one-out bunt single. Hernandez then issued a four-pitch walk to Matt Joyce before loading the bases on a walk to C.J. Cron.

They were Hernandez’s only walks, but he responded by striking out Carlos Perez and retiring pinch-hitter Efren Navarro on a grounder to third.

“Everything was working today,” Hernandez said. “I had a great fastball. The breaking ball was there. Good change-up. I was throwing strikes. I lost it in the seventh a little bit, but I came back and made my pitches.”

The seventh inning closed the book on Felix at 104 pitches. He allowed five hits, two walks and had six strikeouts. His ERA dipped to 2.84.

Just saying, Ned.

“It may fall into place for him,” said McClendon, who will serve as a coach on the AL staff. “I don’t think I have to make any type of statement when it comes to Felix and what he’s capable of doing.

“If it was me, I’d start him.”

The Mariners started with a bang. Logan Morrison led off the first with a 442-foot homer to center on a 3-1 fastball from Richards.

“You want to get to him early before he starts mixing in the other stuff,” Morrison said, “because his other stuff is really good. On 3-1, I was looking fastball, and I was able to put good wood on it.”

Robinson Cano then just missed a homer on a drive to right that hit off the wall. Cano tried to score on Kyle Seager’s one-out single to right, but Calhoun made a strong throw to the plate for the out.

The Mariners settled for a 1-0 lead.

The Angels lost a runner in the second when Joyce, after a one-out single, tried for third on Cron’s soft flare to left. Home-plate umpire Jordan Baker, rotating up, initially called Joyce safe at third.

The Mariners challenged — and the call was overturned.

The outs-on-the-bases trend continued in the Mariners’ second after Dustin Ackley led off with a single and went to third on Mark Trumbo’s double.

The runners held on Brad Miller’s sharp hopper to first, but both tried to score when Mike Zunino pulled a single to left. Ackley scored easily, but Trumbo was cut down on a throw by Joyce.

So, again, the Mariners settled for one run.

They scored twice in the fourth, though.

Seth Smith and Ackley led off with singles before a walk to Trumbo loaded the bases with no outs. Miller and Zunino produced runs with sacrifice flies. It stayed 4-0 until the eighth.

“I think guys are starting to feel better at the plate,” Zunino said. “When we can piece together good at-bats from the top of the order to the bottom, we’ll have productive nights like this.”


FRIDAY: L.A. Angels (LHP Hector Santiago 5-4, 2.40 ERA) at Seattle (LHP Mike Montgomery 4-2, 1.62 ERA), 7:10 p.m.