Let’s not kid anybody, here. The club the Giants ran out Thursday night against Felix Hernandez was, to a large extent, a collection of bodies in San Francisco livery.
Even so, the King was pretty good when the Mariners rolled to a 9-2 victory at Scottsdale Stadium. He faced just one hitter over the minimum in six innings while permitting just four balls to go beyond the infield.
"Not bad," Hernandez said through a wry smile. "It was good. Good command. A lot of strikes. I pitched to contact. Very good."
Hernandez opened the game by retiring 11 straight Giants, including five by strikeout, before Jarrett Parker squirted a double past third with two outs in the fourth inning.
That was all the Giants got against the King, whose last Cactus League start was March 5.
Hernandez made two starts for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic and is now scheduled for one tapered start, probably three innings, before pitching the season opener April 3 against the Astros in Houston.
The Mariners (16-11) provided Hernandez with plenty of support.
Mike Zunino’s leadoff double led to a four-run second inning that knocked out Giants starter Matt Moore. Zunino went to third on a balk before Taylor Motter walked and took second on wild pitch.
Moore struck out Ben Gamel, but Tyler Smith poked an RBI single to left. Mike Freeman struck out, but successive RBI singles by Leonys Martin and Mitch Haniger made it 3-0 and finished Moore.
Michael Roth replaced Moore and surrendered an RBI single to Kyle Seager before ending the inning.
The Mariners added three more runs in the fifth inning against Hunter Strickland. The rally started when third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang o-le’d Haniger’s leadoff grounder into a double.
"Long innings, man," Hernandez said. "Long innings. I was playing catch here in the clubhouse. Just trying to stay loose."
Gamel’s two-run homer in the seventh inning against Cory Gearrin extended the Mariners’ lead to 9-0 before the Giants broke through later in the inning for a run against Nick Hagadone.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Seager moved from second to third in the fifth inning when the throw back to the mound by catcher Nick Hundley got away from pitcher Hunter Strickland. Hundley was charged with an error.
PLUS: Martin, Haniger and Seager delivered two-out RBI singles in the four-run second inning…Haniger had two more hits and raised his average to .426 at 23-for-54…Danny Valencia went 2-for-4 after becoming the Mariners’ full-time first baseman earlier in the day when Dan Vogelbach was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
MINUS: The Mariners ran themselves out of a threat in the third inning. Zunino broke for third on a hopper back to the pitcher for one out. Gamel then got picked off and trapped for the final out.
STAT PACK: The Mariners broke a three-game skid. In all three losses, they started pitchers likely to open the season at Triple-A Tacoma to avoid having their big-league starters face American League West Division opponents.
SPRING BATTLES: Bullpen candidates Nick Hagadone and Casey Fien wobbled through their outings but each limited the damage to one run.
QUOTABLE: Hernandez admits he is trying to be more pitch efficient even if it means being less intimidating. He needed just 73 pitches to get through his six innings.
"It’s real important," he said. "Sometimes, I try to be too nasty, and I get in trouble. I get to 3-2. My pitch count gets up. But today, I tried to pitch to contact and tried to be around the zone. Soft contact, too. It was really good."
SHORT HOPS: Singer Huey Lewis, a big Giants fan, coached first base in the third inning.
UP NEXT: The Mariners play the last of their three split-squad doubleheaders Friday with a 1:10 p.m. game against Kansas City at Peoria Stadium and a 5:10 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will replace lefty James Paxton in the Mariners’ rotation against the Royals. Paxton has been battling a head cold.
Lefty Ariel Miranda will face the Angels in what might be his final spring start because the Mariners are expected to line up their projected five-man rotation over the closing days. LA will start right-hander Bud Norris.
The game against the Royals can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard live on mariners.com. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on a delayed basis by 710 ESPN. There is no live coverage of the night game.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: 10.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners