PITTSBURGH (AP) — The strained right calf that sidelined Felix Hernandez for a third of the season is healed. That doesn’t mean the ace is all better, and he knows it.
It will take time for the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner to regain his form, yet there’s a grit that he showed in Seattle’s 7-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night that offered proof to Mariners manager Scott Servais that Hernandez is on his way back.
Hernandez picked up his first victory since May 21 despite getting touched for four runs over the first two innings, including a 416-foot homer by pitcher Francisco Liriano. Though Hernandez (5-4) never retired the Pirates in order, he found a way to get through six innings while giving his teammates enough time to get going at the plate.
“We’re certainly looking for crisper, sharper stuff than what he showed early in the game,” Servais said. “To his credit, he hung in there. He gave us a chance, kept it right there, and then our offense was the story.”
Kyle Seager’s three hits for Seattle included his 20th home run, and Franklin Gutierrez added his 10th off Liriano (6-10) as the Mariners began a rare trip to Pittsburgh by overcoming a three-run deficit and holding on late.
The Pirates brought the tying run to the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings but failed to get even one man across the plate. Seattle’s only perfect inning came in the ninth, when Steve Cishek picked up his 24th save.
Gregory Polanco collected four hits, including his 13th homer, but Pittsburgh left nine men on base and went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“I liked the game plan throughout the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We pushed him every inning. We were able to score but he kept us off the board late.”
Hernandez spent nearly two months on the disabled list and hardly looked like his dominant self while slogging through 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox last Wednesday.
It looked like more of the same early. Polanco’s shot to center field just cleared the wall in the first. Starling Marte drilled an RBI triple off the wall in right and Jung Ho Kang added a run-scoring groundout to stake Liriano to a quick 3-0 lead.
When Liriano sent a Hernandez offering into the bushes beyond center in the second, the Pirates appeared to be in command with a 4-1 advantage.
“I didn’t have good mechanics,” Hernandez said. “I was missing a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate. . That’s what you get when you’ve been out for a long time. I’ve got to have better mechanics.”
But Hernandez eventually settled down and his teammates went after Liriano, who was dogged by control issues again. He threw nearly as many balls (34) as strikes (38) while walking four. The pitches he did get around the plate were often hammered. Gutierrez homered leading off the third and Seager tied it at 4 four batters later.
An RBI double by Shawn O’Malley and a run-scoring single by Robinson Cano helped chase Liriano in the fourth. An RBI groundout by Nelson Cruz against Jared Hughes gave the Mariners a three-run lead they would not surrender.
The Mariners got some help for their bullpen after the game, acquiring right-hander Drew Storen and cash considerations from Toronto for pitcher Joaquin Benoit. Storen was designated for assignment by Toronto on Sunday after going 1-3 with three saves and a 6.21 ERA in 38 relief appearances.
Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker (right foot tendinitis) will pitch a simulated game Wednesday in Pittsburgh. It will be the first time he has faced hitters since going on the disabled list July 6. … SS Ketel Marte (mononucleosis) played catch in Seattle in his first baseball activity since he was placed on the DL last Wednesday. Servais said Marte is still regaining his strength after losing eight pounds.
Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (facial fractures) will pitch for Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday in Gwinnett. Vogelsong, out since May 28 after taking a pitch to the face while batting against Colorado on May 23, left his last start with Indianapolis due to neck stiffness. … The Pirates have yet to make a decision on who will start on Friday night in Milwaukee in place of injured RHP Tyler Glasnow (shoulder fatigue).
Mariners: James Paxton (3-4, 4.18 ERA) will try to back up perhaps his strongest start of the season on Wednesday. Paxton held Toronto to one run in seven innings last Saturday.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole (5-6, 2.99 ERA) will try for his first win since May 26. Cole is 0-3 with a 3.96 ERA in his last five starts, which are sandwiched around a stint on the disabled list with a strained right triceps.
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