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Hernandez outduels Burnett: Montero's HR lifts Mariners

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps the Seattle Mariners can start calling it the King Felix and Prince Jesus Show.

Catcher Jesus Montero has hit three home runs this season. Each has come with ace pitcher Felix Hernandez on the mound and helped the Mariners win.

"That's crazy how things are happening," Montero said with a grin. "I hit a home run, he pitches and we win. It's unbelievable."

It happened again Wednesday as Hernandez pitched eight strong innings and Montero hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning to lift the Mariners to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Hernandez (5-2) won his fourth straight start as he gave up one run and six hits in eight innings to go with one walk and five strikeouts. That enabled him to outduel Pirates ace A.J. Burnett (3-3), who allowed two hits in seven innings.

"I was OK," Hernandez said. "I didn't have my very best stuff, but I battled hard. I knew I would have to battle because A.J. is a very good pitcher and he was on his game today. It was a tough game. Luckily, I kept us in the game and we were able to win."

The Mariners were able eke out two runs off Burnett, who struck out nine and walked four while having his three-game winning streak snapped.

"It was a tough game," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "Every pitch could be the ballgame. It was a hard-fought ballgame. Both teams played well and it's great for us to get out of here with the win."

Even Burnett wasn't too disappointed in taking a tough loss.

"It was fun out there going up against him," Burnett said. "You live for those kinds of days."

Montero's home run, a one-out shot to right field, snapped a 1-1 tie and gave the Mariners their eighth win in the last 12 games.

"It was the only pitch on a righty that came back over the plate all day," Burnett said. "It's just why we love this game, you never know.

"We battled, walked a couple guys who didn't hurt us too bad. You hate to look at one pitch because you start questioning yourself. But I'm not going to. I went out there with conviction."

Montero was especially happy to hit a home run to the opposite field.

"That's always my approach, hit the ball other way. I've been practicing at it, but it's hard to do," Montero said. "Pitchers are good and it's hard to hit the ball deep the other way off them, but I'm trying to get better at it."

Seattle (16-19) acquired the 23-year-old Montero from the New York Yankees in the 2011-12 offseason in a much-ballyhooed trade for right-hander Michael Pindea. However, Montero is hitting just .205 with three home runs in 22 games this season after batting .260 with 15 homers as a rookie last year.

"He's so talented and he works very hard to make himself better," Hernandez said. "He's become so much better as a catcher this year and I don't even worry about his hitting. He's going to hit, there no doubt about that. He's going to be a great hitter."

Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save in as many opportunities.

Endy Chavez had two of Seattle's three hits with singles off Burnett in the fifth and Bryan Morris in the ninth. Chavez, a reserve outfielder, is 14 for 43 (.326) in his last 12 games.

The Pirates' Starling Marte also had two hits, running his hitting streak to seven games. He is 11 for 28 (.393) during the streak.

The Pirates (18-15), who lost for the third time in their last four games, got their run off Hernandez in the first when Marte led off with a double and scored on Andrew McCutchen's one-out single.

The Mariners countered with a run in the fourth when Michael Saunders, who drew the second of his three walks, scored on a two-out wild pitch by Burnett.

"The game was as advertised with two pitchers out there battling like two kids in the back yard," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

NOTES: Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin (sore neck) missed his second straight game and is considered day to day. ... Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez was named the Pirates' starter for Sunday's game against the Mets in New York after pitching five scoreless for the win on Tuesday night against Seattle as an emergency starter for righty James McDonald (right shoulder discomfort), who was placed on the disabled list. ... Pittsburgh recalled right-handed Duke Welker from Triple-A Indianapolis to get back to a 12-man pitching staff and optioned infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison to the same club. ... Kendrys Morales, normally the Mariners' designated hitter, got his fifth start of the season at first base in place of Justin Smoak as the DH is not used in interleague games at National League parks. ... The Pirates open a four-game series on Thursday against the Mets in New York with left-hander Jeff Locke (3-1, 3.21) facing Dillon Gee (2-4, 6.16). ... Seattle is off Thursday before opening a three-game home series on Friday night as Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 1.61) pitches against Dan Straily (1-0, 5.94).
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