SEATTLE (AP) — Felix Hernandez was anxious for his opportunity to be back on the mound pitching for Seattle for the first time in nearly two months. It helped the Mariners’ offense made sure Hernandez didn’t need to worry about being perfect.
Hernandez pitched six solid innings in his first start since late April and was backed by home runs from Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel and Kyle Seager in the Mariners’ 13-3 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
A day after climbing over .500 for the first time this season, the Mariners continued their June surge with their sixth straight win thanks to an offense that knocked out Houston starter Joe Musgrove (4-7) early and got a strong performance from Hernandez.
“This lineup is a little scary,” Hernandez said.
Jarrod Dyson’s RBI double in the second got Seattle started, but it was a six-run third inning that blew the game open. Danny Valencia’s two-run single dribbled past the diving attempt of Alex Bregman and two batters later Zunino hit a three-run shot for his 10th home run of the season.
All of Zunino’s homers have come since being recalled from Triple-A on May 23, and he has 29 RBIs in June — just four short of the franchise record for any month.
“Our guys have a lot of confidence right now, they feel good walking to the plate, and no pressure on anybody,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I think that’s what happens when a whole lineup is kind of moving together really well.”
Gamel led off the fourth inning with his fourth homer and Seager followed later in the inning with his eighth, helping end Musgrove’s miserable night. The Houston right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing 12 hits and nine earned runs, both new career-highs.
“They were all over everything,” Musgrove said. “There were even times when I threw good pitches, I had a lot of swing-and-misses tonight, a few good strikes, but every time I made a good two-strike, put-away pitch they laid it out like they knew what was coming. I made too many mistakes in the zone.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch was not pleased by having to turn to his bullpen early and adding more innings to their workload.
“We can’t keep absorbing that many innings in the bullpen,” Hinch said.
Hernandez (3-2) wasn’t great but didn’t need to be getting the kind of run support that’s been rare during his career. Pitching for the first time since April 25, Hernandez gave up a pair of solo home runs to Bregman and Jose Altuve, but walked just one batter and pitched out of the one major jam he faced. Houston had runners at the corners with one out when Hernandez struck out Yuli Gurriel and got Bregman to fly out.
Hernandez struck out eight, and Yovani Gallardo picked up the save pitching the final three innings in his first relief appearance since 2007.
“I was going crazy when I was on the DL. I knew I was going to come back,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez passed his good friend Freddy Garcia with his 157th victory, the most by a Venezuelan-born pitcher.
Seattle added three runs in the seventh inning, all scoring on wild pitches from Houston’s James Hoyt. Two scored on one play as Brian McCann struggled to locate the ball, allowing Valencia and Dyson to score. Pinch-runner Taylor Motter scored later in the inning on another spiked pitch.
Astros: LHP Reymin Guduan was recalled from Triple-A Fresno on Friday and threw two innings of relief allowing just one hit. Houston optioned RHP Dayan Diaz.
Mariners: To clear a roster spot for Hernandez, RHP Andrew Moore was sent back to the minors after a successful major league debut on Thursday. Moore allowed three runs in seven innings to get the victory against Detroit. Because of off days, the Mariners won’t need a fifth starter for at least a week. Moore will stay on turn in the minors and is expected to rejoin the club when a fifth starter is needed.
Astros: Lance McCullers (6-1) returns from the disabled list to start for the first time since June 8. McCullers was out because of lower back discomfort. He was the AL pitcher of the month in May after going 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA.
Mariners: Sam Gaviglio (3-1) will make his eighth start. Gaviglio got a no decision in his last outing throwing five innings and allowed two earned runs.