Hernandez dominant as Mariners beat Angels 4-1 to open 2015
SEATTLE (AP) For all the attention paid to what the Seattle Mariners did to improve their offense in the offseason, their foundation remains the pitching.
And there's no better pitcher to build around than Felix Hernandez, especially on opening day when Seattle's ace is still undefeated.
''It's a great challenge,'' Hernandez said. ''You've got a lot of eyes on you and you've got to do good.''
Hernandez struck out 10 and allowed only two hits over seven innings, Seth Smith had three extra-base hits and two RBIs in his Seattle debut and the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 on Monday.
Hernandez (1-0) improved to 6-0 in opening day starts, only two of them at home. Taking the mound before a sellout crowd waving yellow ''K'' towels in his honor, he lifted Seattle to its ninth straight win on opening day.
The victory to begin the most anticipated season in Seattle in years was exactly to the Mariners' blueprint: dominant starting pitching, a handful of key hits throughout the lineup and stellar work out of the bullpen capped by an uneventful ninth inning and Fernando Rodney's first save of the season.
''It's always nice to win at home. I'm glad opening day is over. We can get back to a sense of normalcy around here because it is a very hectic day,'' Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. ''But when you win it's great.''
Smith was the offensive star. Acquired in an offseason trade with San Diego, Smith doubled twice and lined a two-out RBI triple to score Austin Jackson with Seattle's first run of the season. All three hits came off Los Angeles starter Jered Weaver (0-1).
Smith became the first player in Mariners history to have three extra-base hits on opening day. Dustin Ackley added a solo home run and Robinson Cano had an RBI single as Seattle's season of high expectations got off to a rousing start.
''We just had to get some runs on the board and that would take care of the rest,'' Ackley said.
Mike Trout hit a solo homer in the first inning and Erick Aybar singled leading off the fifth. That was all the Angels could do against Hernandez.
Hernandez struck out at least 10 batters for the third time on opening day. He struck out 12 in 2007 against Oakland and 11 last year against the Angels. He retired nine straight after giving up the home run and got out of a jam in the fifth inning with two on and no outs getting a strikeout of Chris Iannetta and getting Johnny Giavotella to ground into a double play.
Hernandez is just the fourth pitcher dating to 1914 with at least three opening day starts of 10 or more strikeouts, joining Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Bob Gibson.
''You can just tell in his demeanor, you can tell in how he's going about his business,'' Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said. ''Felix is one of those few guys that can really do it. You see it from pitch-to-pitch or situations that he can turn it up that extra notch.''
Trout started by homering off Hernandez in the opener for the second straight year, struck out his next three at-bats and capped his day by robbing Logan Morrison of a home run.
Trout's third career homer off Hernandez was the 99th of his career. But he struck out three straight times, including going down swinging in the eighth against reliever Carson Smith with two runners on.
''I just chased a couple of pitches,'' Trout said.
Jackson had a chance to rob Trout of his homer, but mistimed his jump. Trout then showed how it's done by perfectly leaping above the wall in the eighth inning to deny Morrison.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards will pitch in extended spring training on Thursday as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered last August. ... RHP Cory Rasmus is still weeks away from beginning a throwing program after surgery to repair a core injury, manager Mike Scioscia said.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton starts for Seattle on Tuesday. Paxton missed a couple of starts during spring training after falling during an agility drill, but said despite the fewer innings he feels ready for the season.
Angels: C.J. Wilson will start looking for his 16th win against Seattle since 2006.
Mariners: Paxton gets the call for Seattle in Game 2, rather than Hisashi Iwakuma. McClendon split his top two right-handers in the rotation with the hard-throwing young lefty.