The Los Angeles Angels have yet to score a run off a Mariners starting pitcher this series and were blanked 6-0 tonight as Felix Hernandez went eight strong innings while Yoervis Medina finished off the ninth.
Along the way, the Mariners scored six more runs, with Justin Smoak driving in the first four. Smoak showed a quick learning curve from a 10-pitch fourth inning at-bat in which he lined an RBI single on to a sixth-inning encounter in which he sent the first-pitch from Jered Weaver over the center field wall for a three-run homer.
“The first two at-bats, he threw me a bunch of off-speed,’’ Smoak said. “So, I was thinking he was going to try to sneak a fastball in there first pitch. And I was able to put a good swing on it.’’
That’s what you call going up there with a plan and executing it. There’s a reason Smoak is now hitting .266 with a .790 OPS for the season. He’s not done. He’s just getting started, it would appear.
As for the Mariners, they’re keeping this offense going at its six runs per night clip. They have scored 44 in the first six games of the homestand and have a shot at their first sweep of the year tomorrow.
“When guys are having good at-bats and making pitchers throw a lot of pitches, 1-through-9, you’re going to get pitches out over the plate to hit,’’ Smoak said. “He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to get tired out there. And I think that’s what you’re seeing from everybody. Everybody is having good at-bats, seeing a lot of pitches and we’re getting the starter out of there early in the game.’’
Hernande reached the 10-win mark by the All-Star Break f0r the first time in his career. As we mentioned off the top of the game blog, Hernandez got bashed around with an 8-1 lead last month against these same Angels in Anaheim, saw that whittled down to just 8-7 by the time he left, then saw Seattle lose the game.
“It was always on my mind,’’ Hernandez said. “I’ll never forget that.’’
I asked him what lessons he learned from it.
“You can’t fall behind against these guys,’’ Hernandez said. “It’s a pretty good lineup so, I tried to have a good fastball today and throw it for a strike and jusy mix in my breaking balls.’’
That he did. Tonight, Hernandez was at the top of his game. He wasn’t going to let the Angels beat him and they had their chances to score in a couple of innings.
But he held on and preserved a 1-0 lead long enough for Smoak to break the game open. Raul Ibanez had two more hits as did the surging Michael Saunders — seemingly back from the dead these past two weeks.
It’s a good way to close what had otherwise been a disappointing first half. Tomorrow’s game is a big one because going in nine games under .500 will make reaching the break-even point seem a lot less tougher than being 11 under. Mariners manager Eric Wedge liked what he saw from the offense tonight, even when the two hitters atop the order were kept hitless.
“It’s not just Smoak, there are other guys that are doing it too,’’ Wedge said. “Guys that are right in the middle of figuring things out. So, when you string that together up and down the lineup, it’s a difference-maker for you.’’
Wedge was asked whether the All-Star Break was coming at a bad time for his club, which extended its team record to 21 consecutive games with at least one home run. The idea being that a break now will slow the team’s offensive momentum.
“If it’s real, it shouldn’t matter,” Wedge said. “That’s kind of the way I look at it.”
We’ll find out how real it is after the break.