SEATTLE -- Angels ace Jered Weaver had gotten the best of Seattle ace Felix Hernandez for the bulk of their first nine head-to-head battles, but the Mariners right-hander was a winner by knockout in Round 10 Saturday night.
Hernandez gave up seven hits in eight shutout innings, and Justin Smoak capped a quick-strike rally in the sixth with a three-run home run to lead Seattle to a 6-0 victory in Safeco Field, dropping the Angels 10 games behind Oakland in the American League West.
The Angels won seven of the first nine Weaver-Hernandez duels, with Weaver going 5-1 with a 3.02 earned-run average in those games and Hernandez going 1-6 with a 5.88 ERA.
Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, also entered Saturday with a 7-12 record and 4.12 ERA in 32 career starts against the Angels and failed to hold a 7-0 third-inning lead in his last game against them, a 10-9 Angels victory on June 20 in which Hernandez was tagged for 12 hits in five innings.
But Hernandez (10-4) was dominant Saturday night, mixing his 93-mph fastball with a cut fastball, slider, sinker and curve to strike out four, walk none and allow only two runners to reach third base.
“He worked the inside part of the plate a lot more than he has before,” Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo said. “We didn’t see many curve balls. He stayed hard most of the time. He mixed in a slider, which he doesn’t always throw.”
Trumbo said Hernandez also came up win a new wrinkle Saturday night, remarkable considering Hernandez had thrown the equivalent of a full season, 218 2/3 innings, against the Angels over his career.
“He actually had a pretty good sinker type pitch that we haven’t seen before,” Trumbo said. “It was a nice adjustment by him. He was able to change his approach. Most guys don’t have that many pitches in their repertoire to be able to do that.”
Weaver (3-5) has an expansive repertoire of off-speed and breaking pitches himself, but he wasn’t able to subdue the middle third of the Seattle order.
Kendrys Morales, Kyle Seager and Smoak did all of the damage against Weaver, scoring all four runs and accounting for six of the the nine hits off the Angels right-hander, who had given up two earned runs in 20 2/3 innings of his three previous starts.
Morales singled with one out in the fourth, took second on Seager’s single and scored when Smoak capped a 10-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off four two-strike pitches with a sharp single to right.
Josh Hamilton fielded Smoak’s single on one hop, and Morales, who might be slower than injury-plagued Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols, was waved home.
Hamilton’s strong two-hop throw to the plate would have nailed Morales by 10 feet, but the ball glanced off the glove of catcher Hank Conger, who appeared a little off-balance and made an unsuccessful glove-hand stab at the ball. Morales scored for a 1-0 lead.
“I think Hank just missed it,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “You generally want to catch with two hands and tag with one. Hank was in good position. He may have glanced at the runner. I’m not sure what happened.”
Morales also sparked the sixth-inning rally with a two-out single. Seager’s single moved Morales to third, and Smoak crushed Weaver’s first-pitch fastball over the center-field wall for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.
“It wasn’t a bad pitch,” Weaver said. “It was down and away. Maybe I was living on the outside part of the plate a little too much at the end, and it looked like he was sitting on something away.
“He put a good sing on it, hit a big home run, and that was the difference in the game. … I kind of fell apart there in the sixth. It’s baseball. What can you do? You can’t hang your head.”
Smoak’s homer extended Seattle’s franchise-record streak of consecutive games with a home run to 21. The Mariners added two insurance runs in the seventh on Dane De La Rosa’s wild pitch and Raul Ibanez’s RBI single off Scott Downs.
That was more than enough support for Hernandez, who threw his 15th quality start of the season and showed Saturday night that the June 20 game against the Angels was an aberration.
“Felix is not going to implode,” Scioscia said. “He’s going to battle the whole way. It’s not very often we’re going to come back from 7-0 and beat him. It may not happen again. It just doesn’t happen.”