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Haniger's HR extends Mariners' MLB record

@gregjohnsmlb
April 14, 2019

SEATTLE -- The Mariners got their now-traditional home run. And they got a solid, welcome start from Felix Hernandez. But in the end, neither of those were enough Saturday night against Justin Verlander as the Astros continued their own hot streak with a 3-1 win at T-Mobile Park. Just when

SEATTLE -- The Mariners got their now-traditional home run. And they got a solid, welcome start from Felix Hernandez. But in the end, neither of those were enough Saturday night against Justin Verlander as the Astros continued their own hot streak with a 3-1 win at T-Mobile Park.

Just when it appeared Verlander was unhittable -- and he was, with eight strikeouts in his first 10 batters faced -- Mitch Haniger launched a solo homer off the Astros' ace in the fourth inning to extend the Mariners’ MLB record to 17 consecutive games with a home run to start a season.

The Mariners are marching well past the old record of 14 straight games with a homer to open a season set by the 2002 Indians, and the long balls have helped them get off to a 13-4 start with a rebuilt roster that wasn’t expected to contend in the American League West this year.

Haniger jumped on an 0-1 changeup left up over the plate and drove it 403 feet over the center-field wall. It was Haniger’s fourth homer of the season, and Seattle’s 38th in the first 17 games of the year.

But that was the only damage the Mariners could muster as the Astros slowed Seattle’s early-season roll with a second straight defeat.

“Hall of Fame stuff,” Haniger said of Verlander, who allowed two hits, with 11 strikeouts, over six innings. “He’s a really good pitcher and competitor. We struck out a lot, but I thought we did have a lot of really good at-bats and made him really work. Unfortunately, we didn’t score enough runs.”

The Astros have won eight straight to improve to 10-5, and Verlander and three relievers combined to hold the Mariners under five runs for only the second time in Seattle's first 17 games.

Hernandez pitched well for Seattle, allowing three runs on six hits over six innings, but he couldn’t keep pace with his fellow former Cy Young Award winner. Verlander improved to 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA in five career matchups against Hernandez since the two came into MLB together in 2005. Hernandez is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in those head-to-head battles.

Verlander acknowledged there was a little something extra on the line when facing his longtime rival.

"Yeah, there was,” Verlander said. “I thought Felix was great tonight. I thought he looked good. We've been in a few duels, him and I, so it was fun to do it again."

Hernandez bounced back from a rough one-inning outing, when he was dealing with the stomach flu, and took comfort in his best performance of the season, despite the loss, though he downplayed the one-on-one battle with Verlander.

“It’s not the first time we’ve faced each other,” Hernandez said. “I knew it was going to be a close game. I made two mistakes, and that was the game.”

The Astros did their own long-ball damage, with Robinson Chirinos jolting a leadoff shot in the third and Jose Altuve adding a solo blast -- his sixth homer in five games -- in the fifth off Hernandez.

Mariners manager Scott Servais was pleased to see Hernandez’s competitive fire, as well as the return of his outstanding changeup.

“Just the crispness to his stuff,” Servais said. “That was as good a changeup as I’ve seen Felix have in a long time. Really good signs there. He looked healthy tonight. We’ll take that outing all day long. I know he will, too, the rest of the season. If we could put that in a bottle, he’d be happy with it and so would we.”

Daniel Vogelbach continued his torrid start with two of Seattle’s four hits as he raised his average to .424, but it didn't lead to any runs.

Vogelbach noted that a ground-rule double by Tim Beckham in the seventh cost Seattle a run when he had to be held at third, instead of scoring easily following his two-out single. Ryon Healy also missed an RBI opportunity in the fifth, when center fielder Jake Marisnick made a long running catch in the gap.

“We’ve lost the last two, but I think we’ve played really well still,” Vogelbach said. “We had good at-bats. It’s not always going to fall our way. We’re not always going to get 15 hits and score 15 runs a game.

“You have to give credit to Felix tonight for keeping us in the game and all you can ask is giving us a chance to win, and that’s what he did.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.