HOUSTON — It took more starts than he wanted, but Felix Hernandez finally got his 100th career win.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that win No. 100 would come soon after he notched No. 99 on opening day.
But it didn’t.
A mediocre start in Chicago, a subpar start at home against Texas and a brilliant start against Detroit netted nothing but two losses and a no-decision. Of course, the Mariners’ usual lack of run support didn’t help his cause.
But that all changed Monday in a 7-1 victory over the hapless Houston Astros,
Hernandez seemed like a lock. His teammates made it a little easier by scoring a few runs.
Hernandez pitched six strong scoreless innings, striking out nine, and his teammates hit three home runs to beat the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“Finally,” Hernandez said. “It took too long. I felt great. I had to do it tonight.”
He left the game after 97 pitches with a slightly stiff back, but he said it was nothing to worry about.
“It happens,” he said. “I’m fine.”
Up 7-0 at the time, the Mariners had no reason to chance it.
“It’s something that comes up from time to time with guys,” manager Eric Wedge said. “I didn’t want to take chances with it and got him out of there.”
The bullpen did give up a run, but Carter Capps, Oliver Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen made sure Hernandez got his win.
Hernandez joined Jamie Moyer (145) and Randy Johnson (130) as the only pitchers to win 100 games in a Mariners uniform..
“I didn’t know that,” Hernandez said. “It’s an honor to be part of this list.”
Hernandez received a different honor after the game, getting the customary beer shower that teams use for celebrations. However, the Mariners use more than beer — there’s ketchup and other condiments, baby powder, shaving cream and anything within reach.
“Man, that was unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “That was bad. There will be payback.”
Actually, it was payback to Hernandez for his antics in those celebrations.
“I was the one who threw all the ketchup,” said his catcher, Jesus Montero. “He’s the worst. That’s why I did that. He’s the guy who throws the powder and everything.”
As Hernandez walked by fresh from the shower, he said: “Thanks a lot, Montero.”
Postgame antics aside, for Hernandez to reach 100 wins at age 27 is quite a feat.
“It’s a great accomplishment, and I’m glad it’s behind him,” Wedge said. “It’s something you can’t not help but think about as a pitcher or a player. I was really happy for him to do that. He’s accomplished so much for a young man.”
Still, Hernandez was going to win that 100th game soon. It was a given. But the Mariners scoring seven runs in a game with five extra-base hits? That seemed as though it would never happen again this season, considering the last week.
For a night, Seattle looked a lot like the club that pummeled the ball in spring training. More important, the Mariners got contributions from players who had greatly struggled early this season.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead off Astros starter Brad Peacock in the first inning. The white-hot Kyle Seager came up with a one-out single to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. Kendrys Morales drew a walk to move him to second, and Seager advanced to third on a passed ball.
Justin Smoak, who entered the game not having driven in a run in 10 consecutive games, yanked a ball down the first-base line that went off Carlos Pena’s glove for an RBI single.
It was just the start.
Seager crushed a two-run homer into the upper deck in the third inning.
Montero destroyed a baseball in the fourth inning, crushing a 430-foot home run off the wall in left-center field.
“I was trying to move the runner, for real,” Montero said. “Just try and hit it (to) right field. But I hit that ball pretty well.”
And so it continued.
Kendrys Morales homered in the fifth inning, and Montero added a sacrifice fly.
“It’s important to jump out early, but it’s important to keep going and to separate,” Wedge said. “I thought our guys did a good job with that. We drove the ball better today than we have in a week or so.”
The Mariners scored seven runs in five innings, after scoring just three in 27 innings in Texas.
Where has this offense been?
“It goes back to what we were talking about before the game,” Wedge said. “They did a better job on pitches in the zone and being ready to hit. Because of that focus and aggressiveness, they were able to lay off some pitches we’ve been swinging at. That’s the kind of combination we’ve been looking for.”
Smoak went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, Ackley went 3-for-4 with a double and Montero went 1-for-3 with the homer and three RBI.ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish