Felix Hernandez back on form and Mariners back over .500 after 6-1 victory over Astros
Willie Bloomquist delivers two-run homer for Seattle
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sitting shirtless at his locker in one corner of the Mariners clubhouse, Felix Hernandez looked the part of a hockey goalie.
One big bundle of ice was wrapped tight on his right shoulder. More ice was wrapped around his right elbow. And more yet wrapped around his left calf.
Roughed up in his two previous starts against the lowly Astros, Hernandez finally cooled them off Friday night, striking out nine in eight sharp innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 victory before a crowd of 21,192 at Safeco Field.
Hernandez (6-1) allowed one run on five hits, with one walk, but was roughed up another way — taking two hard-hit balls off each of his legs.
“They got me — got me pretty good,” he said.
In the end, he got back to his King-like dominance. And the Mariners (24-23) got back above .500.
The Mariners had lost to the Astros in both of Hernandez’s previous starts against them this season. That included his worst start of the year at home on April 21, when he allowed six runs (two earned) on seven hits in a 7-2 defeat.
Friday, Hernandez said “everything” was working well for him.
In that April 21 start, the Astros were laying off his off-speed pitches. The plan this time, he said, was to be aggressive with his fastball.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a sharp single off Hernandez’s left calf in the eighth inning. After a quick check from a trainer, Hernandez stayed in the game.
He then started a 1-6-3 double play off the bat off Dexter Fowler and let out a primal yell in celebration as he walked toward the dugout, his night complete.
“Felix was pretty darn good tonight in a lot of different ways,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Certainly with his pitch count — very efficient — and fielding the ball with his glove and his legs.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Hernandez, the Mariners’ established ace, was the Astros’ 26-year-old left-hander, Rudy Owens.
Owens, 2-3 with a 6.05 earned-run average for the Oklahoma City RedHawks this season, made his major-league debut after right-hander Brad Peacock (forearm soreness) was a late scratch.
Owens allowed five runs on nine hits in 52 / 3 innings. The big blow came from the most unexpected source — Willie Bloomquist.
In the sixth inning, Bloomquist hit a two-run homer off Owens just fair and just over the wall in left. That extended the Mariners’ lead to 5-1.
“At first, I was hoping it would just stay fair and maybe get off the wall and maybe get on base,” Bloomquist said. “The fact that it went out, it was great.”
It was Bloomquist’s first home run since Aug. 10, 2011 — also against the Astros, and also against a pitcher making his major-league debut — when he was with Arizona.
He had gone 663 plate appearances between homers.
“Don’t even go there,” Bloomquist said afterward, smiling. “Don’t want to remember. … I’ve had a lot of ground-rule doubles in the meantime.”
Teammates gave Bloomquist “a good ribbing,” as McClendon described it, in the dugout after his homer.
“They let me have it pretty good,” Bloomquist said, “but I deserve it.”
Kyle Seager also drove in three runs for the Mariners.
In the first inning, Robinson Cano singled with two outs and Justin Smoak followed with a first-pitch double off the left-field wall, snapping his 0-for-11 skid.
Seager then delivered a single to center on a 3-2 pitch to score both runners.
In the fourth, Cole Gillespie walked and advanced to third on Mike Zunino’s hit-and-run single. Bloomquist drove in Gillespie with a sacrifice fly to right, pushing the lead to 3-1.
With the Mariners leading 5-1, Seager blooped a single to center to score Smoak in the seventh inning, extending the lead to 6-1.
The Astros scored their lone run on Altuve’s run-scoring single in the third. Altuve had three hits and is hitting .500 for his career (8 for 16) against Hernandez.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364
On Twitter: @a_jude