Scoring not a problem for Mariners as they open with win

Staff writerApril 1, 2014 

— Well, looky here. One day into the season, and the Seattle Mariners sit alone atop the American League West Division after rallying for a 10-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

The Mariners blew open a one-run game by scoring six times in the ninth inning — all with two outs. Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer and, after three walks, Dustin Ackley delivered a three-run triple.

Smoak’s drive was the dagger; it came against Kevin Jepsen and followed a single by Brad Miller and a double by Robinson Cano.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” said Smoak, who also had a double and a walk in five plate appearances. “I just got a fastball and was able to barrel it up. And — homer.”

It all rewarded Felix Hernandez for a dominant 11-strikeout performance while making his club-record seventh start on Opening Day. The bullpen, a bugaboo a year ago, also turned in some strong work before the ninth.

“Given the history of what Felix has done for this organization,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and the battles he’s had and the lack of wins, it’s really special to see our guys come back and win a ballgame for him.”

The Mariners trailed 3-1 before surging in front by scoring once in the sixth inning and twice in the seventh. Smoak and Ackley turned the game into a rout before a sellout crowd of 44,152 at Angel Stadium.

Hernandez (1-0) survived an early hiccup — Mike Trout’s two-run homer in the first inning — by working six innings before handing a 4-3 lead to the bullpen.

“I was just (ticked),” Hernandez said. “Opening day, two-run homer in the first inning. I was like, ‘Really, Felix? Do something about it.’ I was feeling really comfortable. I was throwing a lot of strikes.”

Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen nursed that lead to the ninth before Danny Farquhar closed out the Mariners’ eighth straight victory in a season opener.

“The bullpen did a fantastic job,” McClendon said, “and our offense, they grind. They did a great job of just grinding at-bats out. They faced a tough pitcher (in Angels starter Jered Weaver) who is very crafty.

“That was a good win for us.”

Hernandez gave up just one unearned run after Trout’s blast. It was his 27th career game with 10 or more strikeouts, which ranks third in club history behind Randy Johnson (94) and Mark Langston (28).

“Felix was nasty tonight,” Trout said. “Once we scored three runs off him, he just flicked a switch and went to nasty mode.”

Even so, Hernandez trailed for much of the game while the Mariners managed little through the early innings against Weaver.

That changed after Weaver, 0-1, issued a pair of two-out walks in the sixth inning. Kyle Seager followed with a double, but the Mariners settled for one run when Logan Morrison was thrown out at the plate.

The Mariners then knocked out Weaver in the seventh.

Ackley served a one-out single to left and came around when Mike Zunino drove a triple past left fielder Josh Hamilton.

The Angels summoned Fernando Salas at that point and shortened their infield. None of it mattered when Abraham Almonte flicked a ball into short left-center and hustled his way to a double.

“I was trying to hit it by the infielders,” Almonte said. “I took the first pitch and saw the off-speed. Then I knew what I can jump on. Then I was looking for a strike I could put a good swing on.”

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

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