Seattle Mariners' Justin Smoak, right, is hugged by starting pitcher Felix Hernandez in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 13, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
This wasn’t quite the offensive barrage the Mariners had previously laid on their opponents.
Up until the sixth inning Saturday night, this was exactly the type of low-scoring affair Felix Hernandez has gotten used to battling through over the years. But then Justin Smoak got hold of a pitch and the Mariners were suddenly off to the offensive races again, laying a 6-0 pounding on the Los Angeles Angels and staff ace Jered Weaver.
Smoak’s three-run blast over the center-field fence on the first pitch Weaver threw him helped break open what had been a tight game. In fact, the only run scored by the Mariners to that point had come because Angels catcher Hank Conger dropped a throw that would have nabbed Kendrys Morales by a good 15 feet at home plate.
The scarcity of runs for much of the contest might have been a good thing for Felix Hernandez, who couldn’t handle an 8-1 lead in Anaheim the last time he faced the Angels back in June. Hernandez wound up allowing six fifth-inning runs in that contest and the Mariners went on to lose the game.
This time around, in front of 32,458 fans at Safeco Field, Hernandez was more of his stingy self, holding the Angels scoreless over eight strong innings despite dealing with his share of early base runners. The Angels put a pair of runners on in the second inning, but Hernandez escaped with a ground ball out that deflected off his glove.
Mike Trout then laced a two-out single in the third inning, but Hernandez recovered and struck out Albert Pujols to keep the game scoreless to that point.
Weaver was equally elusive early on, surviving a two-out double by Raul Ibanez in the first inning, then getting a double-play grounder by Mike Zunino to end the second inning with two on.
But the Mariners got to Weaver in the fourth inning with three consecutive singles by Morales, Kyle Seager and then a Smoak liner to right field. Morales was ill-advisedly waved around third on the play and the throw by right fielder Josh Hamilton – though it was low and skipped as it approached Conger – nevertheless arrived in plenty of time.
Conger seemed to have the ball blocked and thought he had it in his glove, even raising his hand to make the tag. But the ball remained in the dirt and Morales – who had slowed to a near stop, assuming he would be tagged out – scooted by the catcher and touched home plate.
For a while, it seemed that might be the game’s only run. But then Morales and Seager hit two-out singles in the sixth and Smoak extended his team’s home-run streak to a club-record 21 consecutive games.
The Mariners added more in the seventh inning off the Angels’ bullpen. Zunino drew a leadoff walk, Dustin Ackley singled and a wild pitch by Dane De La Rosa moved both batters ahead 90 feet. Scott Downs came on to pitch from there and – after getting a pop out – uncorked another wild pitch that allowed a fifth Seattle run to score.
Nick Franklin drew a walk and Ibanez followed with a single that brought in the final run.
Hernandez had helped his cause in the top of the sixth by snaring a J.B. Shuck line drive up over his head for a quick out. His pitch count was over 100 in the eighth inning when an infield single put two on with one out.
But Hernandez got Trout to hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, then escaped the jam on a Pujols grounder to third and exited without having yielded a run.