Seattle Mariners

Hernandez in top form before Mariners pull away for 7-2 victory over Angels

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Seattle. AP

Hey, Ned: Were you watching what took place Thursday night when the Seattle Mariners pulled away late for a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels?

Felix Hernandez put on a de facto audition for a second straight All-Star start by pitching seven shutout innings against the Angels, who had won nine of their previous 10 games.

Hernandez (11-5) is one of just five starting pitchers on the American League staff; and he’s lined up perfectly for a Tuesday start in Cincinnati — should Kansas City manager Ned Yost be so inclined.

Yes, it’s probably a long shot … but Thursday saw the King in top form, which is often the case when he faces the Angels. He is 7-1 with a 0.91 ERA against them in 12 starts over the past two years.

Fact is, the Mariners, who finished with a season-high 19 hits, made this tougher than it should have been.

They battered Angels starter Garrett Richards (9-6) for 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, which matched the highest total of his career. But they generated just four runs — in part because they got two runners thrown out at home.

Fernando Rodney inherited a four-run lead to start the eighth inning against the top of the Angels’ order. Rodney lost the shutout when Kole Calhoun crushed a one-out homer but got past Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

But the Mariners answered with three runs later in the inning, which meant Vidal Nuno and Danny Farquhar, both recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Tacoma, pitched the ninth instead of Carson Smith.

That wasn’t particularly pretty; the Mariners still had to call on Smith after the Angels scored once and loaded the bases with two outs. Smith got the final out for his sixth save in seven chances.

Hernandez’s only real trouble came in the seventh after Erick Aybar’s one-out bunt single. Hernandez then issued a four-pitch walk to Matt Joyce before loading the bases on a walk to C.J. Cron.

They were Hernandez’s only walks, but he responded by striking out Carlos Perez and retiring pinch-hitter Efren Navarro on a grounder to third.

That closed the book on Felix at 104 pitches over seven shutout innings, five hits, two walks and six strikeouts. His ERA dipped to 2.84.

Just saying, Ned.

The Mariners started with a bang.

Logan Morrison led off the first with a 442-foot homer to center on a 3-1 fastball from Richards. Robinson Cano then just missed a homer on a drive to right that hit off the wall.

Cano tried to score on Kyle Seager’s one-out single to right, but Calhoun made a strong throw to the plate for the out. The Mariners settled for a 1-0 lead.

The Angels then lost a runner in the second when Joyce, after a one-out single, tried for third on Cron’s soft flare to left. Home-plate umpire Jordan Baker, rotating up, initially called Joyce safe at third.

The Mariners challenged — and the call was overturned.

The outs-on-the-bases trend continued in the Mariners’ second after Dustin Ackley led off with a single and went to third on Mark Trumbo’s double.

The runners held on Brad Miller’s sharp hopper to first, but both tried to score when Mike Zunino pulled a single to left. Ackley scored easily, but Trumbo was cut down on a throw by Joyce.

So, again, the Mariners settled for one run.

They scored twice in the fourth, though.

Seth Smith and Ackley led off with singles before a walk to Trumbo loaded the bases with no outs. Miller and Zunino produced runs with sacrifice flies.

The Mariners missed a chance to extend their lead in the fifth after one-out singles by Nelson Cruz and Seager, and a wild pitch, put runners at second and third with one out.

Richards kept the game at 4-0 by striking out Smith and retiring Ackley on a grounder to second. But the Mariners knocked out Richards in sixth after singles put runners at first and third with one out.

Cesar Ramos squelched the threat by getting Morrison to ground into a double play.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

FRIDAY: L.A. Angels (LHP Hector Santiago 5-4, 2.40 ERA) at Seattle (LHP Mike Montgomery 4-2, 1.62 ERA), 7:10 p.m.

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