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Mariners' Hernandez solves Angels

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez has had his share of bad luck against the Los Angeles Angels through the years, but this time he had Kendrys Morales on his side.

Morales dealt the big blow to his former team on Saturday night with a pinch-RBI single in the seventh inning to help give the Mariners a 3-2 win over Los Angeles.

It gave Hernandez (3-2) his first win over the Angels since September 2011 after the Mariners ace had gone 0-3 in five games against Los Angeles last season.

"It's been awhile to beat those guys," Hernandez said after allowing five hits and just one earned run in eight innings.

Hernandez gave up two runs in the second inning, on a leadoff homer from Chris Iannetta and a Mike Trout sacrifice fly, but was nearly untouchable after that. He retired the final 14 batters he faced before Tom Wilhelmsen came on in the ninth to pick up his seventh save of the season.

Hernandez threw just 95 pitches but said he told manager Eric Wedge after the eighth that he was ready to call it a night.

"I felt a little tired today," Hernandez said with a shrug after the game. "I told Wedge, 'I'm good. Just give it to Wil, the closer.' ... It's early in the season."

It looked like another tough-luck performance from Hernandez until the Mariners tied the score on Jesus Montero's two-run homer in the sixth and pulled ahead on the one-out single from Morales. The former Angel lined a pitch from reliever Michael Roth to left field, bringing in Kyle Seager from second base for the eventual winner.

That hit came after the Mariners had stranded 21 runners in 14 innings on Friday and Saturday. The Mariners were 1 for 20 with runners in scoring position during that span before Morales broke through with the clutch pinch hit.

Morales, who had a career batting average of .179 as a pinch hitter in six seasons with the Angels, replaced left-handed hitter Raul Ibanez with one out and runners on first and second in the seventh and broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI single to right.

"It was nice to see Morales come off the bench and get that big hit for us," said Wedge, who had been planning to give his everyday designated hitter the night off.

The Mariners (10-16) couldn't break through on Angels starter Joe Blanton until the sixth, when Montero hit a two-run homer off him to tie the score 2-2.

Clutch hitting continued to be a problem for the Mariners, and the biggest culprit has been first baseman Justin Smoak. The switch-hitting first baseman grounded into an inning-ending out with the bases loaded in the fifth, then Smoak struck out with runners on first and second before Morales came to the plate in the seventh.

Smoak has stranded 15 runners on base in the past two games, when he has gone 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

Los Angeles (9-14) had its own struggles, particularly from its top three hitters. Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined to go 2 for 11, giving them a .242 batting average for the series.

Blanton (0-4) threw five scoreless innings and pitched into the seventh but ended up allowing three runs and nine hits. Afterward, he was more frustrated with the four walks he allowed.

"My command's still not where it needs to be," Blanton said, "so I'm definitely not happy."

Hernandez was in command for most of the night, although he did struggle in the third and fourth. After Iannetta led off the third with a home run and Trout drove in an unearned run with a sacrifice fly, the Angels led 2-0 through three innings.

Los Angeles threatened again in the fourth when the Angels had runners on first and third with one out. Shortstop Brendan Harris tried a squeeze bunt, only to have Hernandez come off the mound and field the ball cleanly before using his glove to scoop it to Montero for a tag at home plate.

"That's a nice play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They executed it well on the defensive side. We (were) just a little bit off. (Harris) did a good job of getting the bunt down, just a little hard to the mound. (Trumbo) got the best jump he could. (Hernandez) executed it well on the defensive side."

The win gives Hernandez a career record of 7-12 against the Angels. He was 0-3 against them last season when he also had no-decisions in two other losses to Los Angeles.

NOTES: Former Mariner Jason Vargas will make his first start against Seattle on Sunday. The left-handed pitcher spent four seasons with the Mariners before being traded for Morales in December. ... Before Saturday's game, Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz informed the team that he has been diagnosed with cancer. Datz, who was in his usual role for Saturday's game, released a statement to the media that did not disclose any details of the cancer. The statement did say Datz was fortunate the cancer was found in its early stages but that could he miss a few games down the road. Wedge said, "He's going to beat this." ... The Angels' Monday starter is listed as TBA, but all indications are that Tommy Hanson will make his first start since April 19. Hanson is on the bereavement list.
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