Count this as a give-back game by the Seattle Mariners to their King on the eve of his 10th anniversary in the big leagues. And a victory over the elements at Coors Field.
After so often squandering wonderful performances by Felix Hernandez over the years, the Mariners mustered a three-homer attack Monday night when the numbers suggest he wasn’t in top form.
The result was an 8-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies that included a hold-on, heart-stopping thrill ride at the end.
“It was crazy,” shortstop Brad Miller said, “but we got it done.”
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Carson Smith wiggled out of a first-and-third jam with one out in the ninth inning after the Rockies scored three runs and threatened to pull off a stunning comeback victory.
“We got the win,” Smith said. “That’s my job. That’s what I was there to do. Unfortunately, I let in some runs beforehand but, overall, we got the win. That’s a step in the right direction.”
Hernandez (13-6) insisted he had good stuff despite allowing four runs and 11 hits in 62/3 innings. Take him at his word. He isn’t shy at self-criticism after what he views as poor outings.
“It’s a little different,” he admitted. “High altitude. You get tired real quick. But I was fine. I had good stuff. I had a good fastball, but I think I was up in the zone a little bit. That’s why they got a lot of hits.
“But I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”
It was 10 years ago Tuesday that Hernandez, at age 19, made his major-league debut by pitching well in a loss at Detroit.
“Do I look like I’ve spent 10 years here?” he parried. “I mean … yeah, it looks like I’ve been here 10 years.”
On Monday, the Mariners built a 7-1 lead through 21/2 innings on homers by Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Miller against Colorado starter Eddie Butler, who departed after four innings.
“What they always say (about Coors Field) held true today,” Seager said. “You’ve always got to keep adding on. Because you never know. No lead is too safe.”
On cue, the Rockies began chipping away. Two runs in the fourth inning and another in the sixth. The Mariners pushed back to 8-4 on Robinson Cano’s two-out RBI double in the seventh.
Joe Beimel got the final out in the seventh after replacing Hernandez. Tom Wilhelmsen worked around a pair of two-out singles in the eighth by striking out Jose Reyes with runners at second and third.
Then it got wild.
When Wilhelmsen gave up a leadoff single in the ninth inning, the Mariners called on lefty Rob Rasmussen, one of the pitchers they acquired last Friday from Toronto for reliever Mark Lowe.
Rasmussen jumped ahead 0-2 on Carlos Gonzalez before yielding a line single. The Mariners then summoned Smith, who struck out D.J. LeMahieu before yielding a two-run double to Ben Paulsen.
That made it 8-6.
A single by Lake Washington High grad Nick Hundley through the right side, after Smith failed to get a check-swing call for a third strike, scored Paulsen. After Brandon Barnes replaced Paulsen as a pinch runner, Kyle Parker singled to right.
The tying run was on third, and the winning run was on first with one out.
“I knew my job was either to get a double-play ball or a strikeout,” Smith said. “Those were my two options.”
Smith struck out pinch-hitter Michael McKenry before closing out the game when Charlie Blackmon, who already had four hits, flied to center.
“Don’t think there was a single guy on the bench,” McClendon said, “whose heart didn’t stop when Blackmon hit that ball.”
After all, Coors had already flashed its high-altitude thin air by yielding a homer to Cruz, when he was jammed, and to Miller on an opposite-field floater that just kept going.
But Austin Jackson made the catch, and Smith had his 10th save in 12 chances. Butler (3-8) got the loss.
“It was pretty special to watch Carson get out of that,” Seager said. “A couple of guys got hits off him, and the tying run was on third with one out. To watch him bear down and make some pretty special pitches was nice.”