SEATTLE (AP) — For all that Felix Hernandez has done in his career, pitching meaningful games in the final two months of the season has been a rarity.
With Seattle in the thick of the wild-card chase in the American League, Hernandez got the Mariners most anticipated home series since 2007 off to an electric start on Monday night.
Hernandez allowed one run in seven strong innings, extending his major league record streak, and Robinson Cano provided a jolt of run support as Seattle romped to an 11-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hernandez twirled another gem, making his 16th straight start of at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or less. Hernandez needed just 96 pitches to get through seven and his only mistake was Jose Bautista’s solo home run in the fourth.
And he did it before a buzzing crowd of 41,168 as Seattle remained one game back in the chase for the second wild-card spot.
“That was unreal. That was pretty good,” Hernandez said. “We’re fighting. We’re going to continue to fight and do the little things.”
And for a change, Hernandez wasn’t left wondering if Seattle would score enough.
Cano ignited a seven-run sixth inning with his 10th homer of the season for a 3-1 lead.
That was just the start. Mike Zunino followed with an RBI triple and an RBI double by Endy Chavez ended the night for Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (8-10).
Seattle’s biggest inning since an eight-run outburst May 3 against Houston was just getting started. Brad Miller lined an RBI triple and Dustin Ackley brought home two runs with a single. Cano came up again, and after stepping out of the box while a lightning bolt and thunder crackled outside the stadium, just missed a second homer in the inning by inches with a RBI double off the wall.
“Everything I saw was away … so I was just trying to go the other way, but I wasn’t trying to hit a homer,” Cano said.
A day after going 19 innings to beat Detroit at home and not arriving to Seattle until 12:30 a.m. local time, Bautista’s 23rd homer was the only highlight for Toronto. The only other Toronto batter to get a hit was Colby Rasmus, who had two and is now 7 for 10 against Hernandez.
King Felix struck out eight, walked none and lowered his ERA to 1.95 for the season. Hernandez is 9-2 with a 1.41 ERA during the 16-game streak.
“With Felix out there, you give those guys a lead they put it away,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Cano’s heady fielding cut down a potential scoring opportunity for Toronto in the second. After Rasmus doubled, Dioner Navarro hit a grounder to second. Cano threw to third and got Rasmus trying to advance. Hernandez then got a double play grounder from Danny Valencia to get out of the inning.
Cano later added an over-the-shoulder basket catch running down the right-field line.
Hernandez became the first pitcher since Dwight Gooden to reach 2,000 innings during or before his age-28 season. Hernandez, 28, reached the mark when he completed the second inning.
Blue Jays: 1B Adam Lind (foot) is expected to join the team on Tuesday in Seattle, and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (quad) is still on track to rejoin the team Friday in Chicago.
Mariners: OF Michael Saunders (oblique) will have his rehab assignment delayed by a few days. He was set to leave Triple-A Tacoma to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Blue Jays: J.A. Happ (8-6) has thrown at least seven innings in each of his past two starts, but has just one victory since June 26. He’s given up three earned runs combined in his last two starts and the Blue Jays have lost both games.
Mariners: Chris Young (10-6) is 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA in his last 10 starts. Young has reached 11 victories only twice in his career.
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