Felix Hernandez made it quite clear after his last start in Seattle about the way he was pitching or the way the Seattle Mariners were playing. He’d had two subpar outings in a row, both resulting in losses for his and he wasn’t happy about it.
“It just can’t happen anymore,” he said on Saturday after a sub-six inning outing against the Rangers. “I have to go out there and do something about it.”
He did so on Thursday afternoon.
Hernandez returned to his all-star level-form against the Padres, tossing eight strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits with six strikeouts and three walks in the Mariners’ 7-1 win at PetcoPark.
“He was really good today. He stayed in his delivery better, executed pitches, had good stuff and controlled the ballgame, which is what we want our guys to do,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I thought he was really good out there.”
But if Hernandez was good, rookie Nick Franklin was just as good if not better. Just four games into his big league career, he had a game to remember.
The young infielder blasted a pair of solo home runs to help turn a close game into an easy win.
A day after notching his first career hit, Franklin ripped his first home run of his promising big league career, crushing a 412 foot a solo homer to center field off of Padres starter Andrew Cashner to push the Seattle lead to 4-1 in the sixth inning. Petco is not a hitter friendly park and Franklin certainly didn’t act like he knew it was gone off the bat.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “I thought the center fielder was going to catch it.”
Endy Chavez continued the homer parade, ripping a two-run homer in the seventh.
But it was Franklin who would steal the show. In the eighth inning, he launched another solo blast to right field off of reliever Tim Stauffer.
“I felt the second one a little better and felt that was going to have a better chance to get out,” Franklin said.
At 22 years and 89 days old, Franklin became the seventh youngest Mariners player to have a multi-homer game. He joins Kenji Johjima (June 24, 2006) and Ben Johnson (August 16, 2006) as the only rookies to record multi-homer games at PetcoPark.
“Wow, big day for Nick,” Wedge said. “ Good for him. He hit a couple of balls really good. You can see, even in the short period of time he’s been here, he’s a little more comfortable, gaining some confidence. It was an impressive day by Nick.
Not that Franklin is lacking in confidence. He believes he belongs at this level.
“He’s a confident young man,” Wedge said. “You have to like that. He comes to the ballpark ready to play. He’s up there hunting the baseball. He’s ready for the ball at second base.”
All that run support helped the Mariners end a brief two-game losing streak. and the personal two-game skid for Hernandez.
“Coming off my two bad outings, my mind was, you’ve got to throw a good game,” Hernandez said.
He didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings, and the only runner that reached was via walk.
“When I was warming up in the bullpen, I felt pretty good,” he said. “Today I just needed to step up. I was coming from two struggling outings and I had to go out there and throw good pitches. That’s what I did today and we played unbelievable defense back there.”
GIF courtesty of Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs
The defense came in the third inning. Hernandez issued a lead-off walk to Alexi Amarista, who later came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Carlos Quentin to cut the Mariners lead to 3-1. With runners on first and second and one out, Jedd Gyorko hit a hard ground ball up the middle that seemed like a sure single.
Instead, shortstop Brendan Ryan made a marvelous diving stop and from the ground flipped the ball out of his glove to second baseman Nick Franklin, who fired to first for a double play.
“That helped a lot,” said Hernandez, who let out a scream of joy after the play. “You know Brendan always helps. He’s one of the best out there. He’s unbelievable.”
The game could have easily been 3-2 and Hernandez could have found more trouble, instead they were out of the inning.
“That’s making a play early in the game that gets lost as the game plays out, but early in the game that’s a difference maker,” Wedge said. “Felix was battling a little bit that inning; for Brendan to make that play, that was huge for us.”
With Kendrys Morales’ second-inning solo homer and Brendan Ryan’s third inning solo homer, the Mariners hit five homers in one game – the most given up at Petco this season.
“This is what we’re looking for right here,” Wedge said. “You don’t expect to hit four or five home runs, but the type of at-bats we had, and hitting the ball hard, playing a full game like we did – this is it. This is what we’re shooting to do on a regular basis. It’s not going to be that kind of score every time, but this is the way you want to compete at home plate. We’ve got some guys I feel are headed in the right direction, some guys that are still trying to find it. We’re a little bit banged up, so it’s nice to see these guys step up.”