Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners 1, Royals 0: Smith homers, Felix and bullpen make it stand up

Felix Hernandez handed off a 1-0 lead Friday night after 7 2/3 innings.
Felix Hernandez handed off a 1-0 lead Friday night after 7 2/3 innings. AP

SEATTLE — One hit, one run and one pulsating catch. It was enough Friday night for Felix Hernandez, with an assist from the Mariners’ bullpen, in a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field.

Seth Smith provided the game’s only run — and the Mariners’ only hit — with a leadoff homer in the sixth inning against Kansas City starter Kris Medlen.

Hernandez (2-2) made it stand up for 7 2/3 innings. Nick Vincent got the final out in the eighth inning before Steve Cishek pitched the ninth for his sixth save in six opportunities.

And what an ending.

Center fielder Leonys Martin ran down Salvy Perez’s deep fly for the final out with the tying run at second base. Martin held the ball after slamming face-first into the wall and tumbling to the ground.

"Oh, I held the ball tight," Martin said. "I knew it was going to be a long way to run. But after a few steps, I knew it was not going to be out. That’s a long way to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

"That wall is really hard, but the good thing is I made the play and we won the game."

Let’s reset.

Eric Hosmer started the Kansas City ninth against Cishek with a a single on a grounder up the middle.

"I tripped on my way to the plate," Cishek said. "My foot caught in the dirt, and I left the ball up. After that…entertaining for everyone in the ballpark."

Hosmer stole second when Kendrys Morales swung through a full-count breaking ball. Cishek then struck out Alex Gordon before Perez rocked a deep drive to center.

"I turned around and said, `That ball is still going. What’s going on?’" Cishek said. "I know he can cover some ground, so I was confident he was going to catch it.

"But it got really close (to going out), too close for comfort."

Game of inches? That also applied to Smith’s homer against Medlen — a drive to right that seemed to claw its way just beyond a leaping Jarrod Dyson at the right-field wall for a homer.

That was it. That’s all the Mariners got.

After Smith’s homer, Dyson ran down a hooking drive by Robinson Cano in the right-field corner. When Medlen (1-2) then walked Nelson Cruz, the Royals went to the bullpen.

The Mariners got nothing against Danny Duffy, Joakim Soria and Luke Hochevar over the next 2 1/3 innings.

Hernandez carried his shutout into the eighth inning before the Royals mounted a threat when Alcides Escobar punched a one-out single to left and went to third on Mike Moustakas’ fly to deep right.

By then, Hernandez was at 115th pitches and the next hitter, Lorenzo Cain, had singles in his two previous at-bats. That prompted a move to the bullpen for Vincent, who retired Cain, on a grounder to second.

Hernandez’s victory was the 145th of his career, which matched Jamie Moyer for the most in franchise history.

"Medlen pitched a really good game," said Hernandez, who lost the season opener at Texas despite giving up just one hit. "We got one hit, but that’s all we needed to win the game."

PLAY OF THE GAME: Before Leonys Martin’s game-ending catch, the key play came in the Kansas City fifth, when Salvy Perez was at second base after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice by Omar Infante.

Perez broke for third on Jarrod Dyson routine hopper to first baseman Adam Lind. Normally, moving up to third is a sound play on a grounder to the right side.

But Lind took advantage of Perez’s lack of speed by throwing to third for the out.

PLUS: Catcher Chris Iannetta threw out Lorenzo Cain on an attempted steal of second base in the sixth inning. Cain was 58-for-69 on steals since the start of the 2014 season…the Mariners have hit at last one home run in eight straight games…the Mariners matched a season-high with seven walks.

MINUS: Felix Hernandez made an ill-conceived and off-line throw after fielding Eric Hosmer’s leadoff nubber in the second inning. The result was a single and an error. Second baseman Robinson Cano was also slow to back up the play…Ketel Marte was hitless in three at-bats after going 13-for-30 in his previous seven games.

STAT PACK: Seth Smith’s homer was the 100th of his career. It was second time in his career that he hit a homer at Safeco Field in a 1-0 game.

The other time came against the Mariners on June 25, 2012 when he was playing for Oakland.

It was also Smith’s first career homer against the Royals.

QUOTABLE: "Asked whether he thought his fly ball in sixth inning would clear the wall, Smith said: "No."

SHORT HOPS: The Mariners are 2-19 in their 40-year history when they get one hit in a game. The other victory was April 27, 2002 in a 1-0 victory over the Yankees at Safeco Field…Felix Hernandez has pitched 91 games since 2009 in which he allowed one or fewer runs. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw ranks second in that span with 85.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners