SEATTLE — For awhile now, Robinson Cano has been telling anyone who asks that shortstop Ketel Marte is "pretty special." And just saying, Cano knows what it’s like to play alongside a pretty special shortstop.
We should listen.
Marte had four hits Monday night, including a three-run homer in the sixth inning that carried the Mariners to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays — and carved a niche in the record book for Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez (3-2) became the franchise’s all-time leader in victories when he got No. 146 by holding the Rays to two runs and four hits in seven innings. He passed Jamie Moyer, who had 145 from 1996-2006.
"It means a lot," Hernandez said. "It’s an honor to be on top of that list."
But this was Marte’s night.
He doubled in the first inning, when the Mariners squandered a great scoring chance. He doubled again in the third inning and later scored from third with a great slide on Nelson Cruz’s sacrifice fly.
Marte then opened the fifth with an infield single and moved around the bases for another run, which tied the game at 2-2. Those first three hits came against Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore.
That was all prelude.
It was 2-2 in the sixth with one out and two runners on base when the Rays brought in reliever Steve Geltz, who offered up a first-pitch fastball.
"I was looking for that fastball," Marte said. "I just tried to put my good swing on it. You saw what happened. I got the homer."
Marte drove it 400 feet to right-center field for his first homer of the season and third of his career. Thereafter, Hernandez (3-2) and the bullpen just had to protect the lead for the King to claim his record.
Hernandez pitched the seventh before Joel Peralta and Steve Cishek closed out the victory. The Mariners improved to 19-13 and stretched their lead atop the American League West Division to 1 1/2 games over Texas.
"We find ways now (to win)," Hernandez said. "It’s not just one guy. Every guy is chipping in. We’re looking pretty good."
Before Marte’s homer, the Mariners were tracking for a frustrating night of missed opportunities. They failed to score after putting runners at second and third with less than two outs in the first and second innings.
They also left the bases loaded in the fifth after Marte score the tying run.
"We had chances early," manager Scott Servais said. "You keep battling, you keep putting them out there, keep giving yourself a shot. Sooner or later, you’ll break through."
That breakthrough came in the sixth after Leonys Martin led off with a four-pitch walk against reliever Dana Eveland (0-1).
Martin then stole second base without a throw when catcher Hank Conger, who appeared to have a play, dropped the ball.
When Nori Aoki worked back from an 0-2 hole for the walk, the Mariners had runners at first and second with no outs — and the Rays went to the bullpen for Geltz.
Up stepped Marte.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Other than Ketel Marte’s three-run homer? How about catcher Chris Iannetta picking off Brandon Guyer at second base for the final out in the top of the sixth with the score tied 2-2?
Guyer had just lined a double to left when he extended his lead to far toward third base. Marte slipped in behind Guyer, took Iannetta’s throw and applied the tag.
PLUS: Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a leadoff single in the second inning…Nori Aoki singled in the first inning, which marked his 14th straight game of reaching base successfully…Marte was 4-for-5 after after going 0-for-9 in the two previous games. He got a standing ovation from the crowd after he grounded out in the eighth inning. "I was so happy," he said. "That was the first time they did that for me."…closer Steve Cishek got his 10th save in 11 chances.
MINUS: The Mariners had three at-bats in the first two innings with runners at second and third and less than two outs. All three ended in strikeouts: Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in the first inning, and Leonys Martin in the second…Cruz struck out three times in four at-bats.
STAT PACK: Ketel Marte had a career-high four hits and equaled career highs with three runs and three RBIs.
QUOTABLE: Asked where his franchise-record 146th victory ranked in his career accomplishments, Felix Hernandez said: "That’s a pretty good question. I don’t know. Probably on top of that list. And the perfect game is up there."
That perfect game also came against Tampa Bay at Safeco Field; a 1-0 victory on Aug. 15, 2012.
SHORT HOPS: Tampa Bay second baseman Logan Forsythe didn’t return to the field in the third after being hit by a pitch in the top of the inning…two ex-Mariners started for the Rays. Shortstop Brad Miller was 0-for-2 with two walks. First baseman Logan Morrison had a single in four at-bats.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners