Felix Hernandez pitched 7 1/3 strong innings Friday night in helping the Mariners arrest their early-season slide with a 2-1 victory Texas at Safeco Field.
The winning run came on Mitch Haniger’s RBI single in the seventh inning. The ball was originally called a homer by third-base umpire C.B. Bucknor. A replay review cleared showed the ball hit the top of the wall and remained in play.
Guillermo Heredia got a bad read on the play and only advanced to second before Bucknor signaled a homer. When the replay reversed the call, that meant Haniger settled for a single.
That one run was enough.
Three takeaways from Friday’s victory (VIDEO):
***A new-look King: Hernandez didn’t just put together a strong start; he did it in a fashion that had club officials beaming. He pitched to contact. He used his fastball aggressively. He was efficient and pitched deep into the game.
This is how the Mariners believe the King has to pitch now. No more stare-down macho and trying to be the nastiest son-of-a-gun around. Even Texas noticed. Rangers manager Jeff Banister called it a "savvy" performance.
Friday was a real test. Hernandez was pitching for the first time this season in front of the King’s Court, which chanted for a strikeout on every two-strike pitch. It was a tight game that the Mariners had to have.
And Felix stuck to the plan.
"I like the new-look Felix," manager Scott Servais said. "I’ll take the 7 1/3 (innings) and keeping them right there. Very efficient with his pitches. He got a few strikeouts tonight, but that’s not what was driving him.
"He’s got a little chip on his shoulder. We knew that was going to happen (with some many people doubting him). And so far, it’s been great."
***Eddie recaptures his mojo: Closer Edwin Diaz pitched Friday for the first time since his monumental meltdown last Sunday when he and since-demoted Casey Fien blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning in a 10-9 loss to the Angels.
Diaz got two quick strikeouts and then showed a little moxie after Elvis Andrus got a single and moved to third on a stolen base/wild pitch. The wild pitch came on a slider that got away from catcher Mike Zunino.
But Diaz didn’t flinch. He came right back with another slider to Jonathan Lucroy, who grounded out to third for the final out. Every club needs a confident closer. This was a big step in the right direction.
"I just threw my pitch," Diaz said. "I have a lot of confidence in Zunino. He called the slider, and I wanted to throw it again. It was a good pitch. He hit it to third, and Seager made the play."
***Zooming by you: Jarrod Dyson had two hits and changed the game with his speed in the seventh inning.
It was 1-1 when he led off with a single. He then stole second and, when Guillermo Heredia bunted, likely forced pitcher Jose Leclerc into an error. Leclerc tried to field the ball quickly for a play at third and boxed it.
The result was runners on first and third with no outs. Mitch Haniger followed with an RBI single off the top of the left-field wall. That was the winning run.
A point to note and something to watch for in the future. Heredia squared to bunt when Dyson broke for second. Heredia’s move was, it seems, a bluff.
"It was a straight steal," Dyson said. "Anytime they see me go, and they’re squaring to bunt, they try to leave it out there and then pull it back at the last minute."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners