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Hernandez wins 100th as Mariners defeat Astros

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- There was a certain inevitability surrounding Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez and his pursuit of 100 career wins. That Hernandez had to labor to reach the milestone in his fourth start after earning his 99th victory made the prolonged wait somewhat agonizing.

Hernandez joined Jamie Moyer and Randy Johnson in the Mariners' 100-win club, and Seattle's dormant offense bashed its way to functionality in a 7-1 win over the Houston Astros Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

By striking out nine batters over six scoreless innings, Hernandez (2-2) finally got over the hump. His repertoire was devastating early, and once his teammates supplied him with an early lead, Hernandez wasted little time aggressively attacking the strike zone against Houston (5-14).

"Finally. It took too long," Hernandez said. "It feels pretty good. It feels great to have 100 wins in the big leagues.

"My last three starts I was trying to win, too. But tonight I was like, 'You've got to do it tonight. You can't wait more and more time. You've just got to go out there and have a good game.'"

On the heels of scoring just three runs while being swept by the Texas Rangers last weekend, the Mariners (8-13) belted three home runs to provide Hernandez with some rare run support. Hernandez entered Monday with the second-lowest run support in the American League at 1.88 runs per start. Seattle had scored more than three runs in a victory once dating back to an 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox on April 5.

Third baseman Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his one-out single off right-hander Brad Peacock in the top of the first inning, and Seager scored when Justin Smoak singled three batters later.

That rally was a modest display of what was to come. Seager crushed a two-run home run into the upper deck in right field two batters into the third for his second home run of the season. Catcher Jesus Montero added another two-run shot in the fourth, a 433-foot blast to left-center.

In the fifth inning, Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales drilled a 2-0 Peacock change-up several rows deep into the right-field stands.

"It was definitely a better offense today," Seager said. "We were able to get some hits with guys in scoring position. We got on base and we were able to get guys across, which is always been our problem lately. It was a great day offensively and even better to get Felix some runs early so he could settle in and do what he does."

Peacock (1-2) surrendered a double to Smoak two batters later, his ninth and final hit allowed. He was charged with seven earned runs, walked a batter and recorded a strikeout as well as a wild pitch.

By failing to work five complete innings, Peacock continued an ignominious streak for Houston starting pitchers. Excluding right-hander Lucas Harrell, who earned a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians last Friday night, the last six Astros' starters have combined for just 13 1/3 innings pitched. Such futility has resulted in a disproportionate workload for the bullpen, which featured two pitchers summoned from Triple-A Oklahoma City for their big-league debuts Sunday and Monday -- southpaw Brett Olberholtzer and righty Jose Cisnero, who worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief after posting bloated numbers in the minors.

"I didn't have it tonight," Peacock said. "I was getting behind the count. I've got no excuses. I just have to keep working."

Said Astros manager Bo Porter: "I think the fact that we made it through tonight's game with one starter, one long guy and one bullpen guy ... I think moving forward we should be in good shape, with (ace) Bud (Norris) going tomorrow and the bullpen completely rested."

As is usually the case, Hernandez was the pitching star. His spectacular career with the Mariners has been frequently sullied by feeble run support, but on this occasion, the stars aligned. Seattle scored early and often, and Hernandez held up his end with his customary brilliance.

"It's a great accomplishment; I'm glad it's behind him," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously it's something that you can't not think about as a pitcher or player, or even as a manager or coach. I'm really happy for him that he was able to accomplish that at such a young age (27 years old). He's accomplished so much so quickly for a young man."

NOTES: Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez missed his second game this season after being hit on his left elbow by a pitch in the ninth inning Sunday. While X-rays were negative, Porter opted to give Dominguez a precautionary extra day of rest. Brandon Laird filled the void at third base. ... Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez hit leadoff Monday after starting just three of the past nine games. Gutierrez has been slowed by sore legs and was 4-for-15 with six strikeouts over his last four games. He exited in the fourth inning with tightness in his right hamstring after failing to make a diving catch. ... Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders played catch Monday and could return to action when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Friday. Saunders suffered a sprained right AC joint (shoulder) making a catch against the right-field wall April 9 against Houston.
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