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Baseball / Sports

Hernandez fans 9, notches 7th win of season

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners' best was at his best, through 26 outs at least.

Seattle ace Felix Hernandez became just the seventh pitcher in team history to reach seven wins in a season before June 1, dominating the Los Angeles Angels until the second-to-last out Wednesday, striking out nine in a 3-1 win at Safeco Field.

Hernandez nearly pitched his first complete game since Aug. 27, 2012 but was pulled with two outs in the ninth inning after giving up an RBI double to Albert Pujols.

Closer Fernando Rodney came in and promptly got David Freese to line out for his 13th save in 15 opportunities.

Hernandez improved to 7-1 this season -- 5-1 after an M's loss -- and lowered his earned-run average to 2.57. He had gone eight innings in each of his past two starts, and earned a huge ovation coming out in the ninth, but the King couldn't quite finish the job himself in his fourth straight win.

The Mariners got to Los Angeles starter C.J. Wilson (6-4) early as catcher Mike Zunino slapped a two-out, two-run single in the second inning that scored Justin Smoak (who had led off with a sharp single) and Kyle Seager (who followed with a four-pitch walk).

On a warm night in front of 13,895 fans, it would be all Seattle needed, even though Zunino hammered a solo home run in the eighth inning to claim all three RBI.

Hernandez was untouchable his first time through the Angels lineup, retiring nine batters in order to start the game--five via strikeout.

The visitors didn't get a base-runner until Howie Kendrick led off the fourth inning with a solid single up the middle that whistled over Hernandez' shoulder. That was followed by a Mike Trout walk, but the danger was quickly quelled when Pujols flied out, Zunino caught Kendrick stealing at third and Freese struck out swinging.

It looked like Seattle might add runs in the fourth when Smoak led off with a ground-rule double. The call was rightly overturned to a foul ball after a challenge, which lasted just 42 seconds, and the Mariners were then retired in order.

The Angels again had a runner in scoring position in the fifth, when Erick Aybar stole second after a one-out single, but Hernandez struck out Kole Calhoun and forced Hank Conger to fly out to center.

L.A. got its leadoff batter on base in the sixth on a four-pitch walk by Collin Cowgill, but Hernandez got Kendrick to ground into a double play before Trout fouled to Smoak, who made a fine catch up against the first row of fans.

Wilson, for his part, settled down after the second inning, effectively retiring 11 in a row at one point were it not for a wild pitch on a strikeout that allowed James Jones to reach first. The veteran left-hander came into Wednesday's game with 14 wins against the M's, seven at Safeco, since 2006, tied for the most by a Seattle opponent in that span.

Mariners outfielder Stefen Romero singled in the sixth inning to snap an 0-for-16 stretch, but Robinson Cano grounded into an inning-ending double play, his second of the game, immediately after.

Seattle improved to 6-2 against the Angels, having not won a season series in the matchup since 2003.

(c)2014 The Seattle Times

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