Felix fans 11 as Mariners rout Angels
Smoak's homer leads late surge on Opening Day
ANAHEIM -- Felix Hernandez really didn't need a wake-up call, not with Opening Day adrenaline already flowing and a new season underway. But when Mike Trout smoked a two-run homer before Hernandez had even retired his first batter on Monday night, the Mariners' ace snapped to attention.
"I was just ticked," Hernandez said after his club had rallied for a 10-3 victory over the Angels for their eighth straight season-opening victory. "Opening Day, two run-homer in the first inning? I was just, 'Really? Really, Felix? You have to go out there and do something about it.'
"After that I felt really comfortable. I was throwing a lot of strikes, just attacking the strike zone, and I guess it was working pretty good."
Hernandez wound up striking out 11 in yet another strong Opening Day performance, helping Lloyd McClendon win his Seattle managerial debut and getting his team off on the right foot as the Mariners blew the game open with six runs in the ninth.
The eight straight Opening Day wins is the longest streak in the Majors since the Reds won nine in a row from 1983-91. Not coincidentally, Hernandez has started seven of those games and is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA after notching Monday's win.
The fact Hernandez bore down and held the Angels to just an unearned run and two more hits over the next five innings after Trout's blast didn't surprise anyone on Seattle's side.
"That's just Felix's nature," said catcher Mike Zunino. "He's the biggest competitor I know. I think he showed that a lot today and that's a good way to start the season."
It didn't surprise the Angels' 22-year-old star, either.
"Once we scored three runs on him," Trout said, "he flicked a switch and went to nasty mode."
Seattle's ninth-inning burst was built on a three-run homer by Justin Smoak and a three-run triple by Dustin Ackley. Smoak's shot to right field capped a 2-for-4 night that also included a double with three RBIs and three runs scored for the first baseman, who provided a big boost batting cleanup behind new second baseman Robinson Cano.
The Mariners banged out 11 hits -- including two each by leadoff hitter Abraham Almonte, Cano, Smoak and Ackley -- and plated 10 runs for just the third time on Opening Day in club history.
That offensive burst was a welcome sign for a team that has struggled offensively in recent years, but is looking to build now with a maturing young core surrounding new-addition Cano.
"Of course, it was just the first day," Smoak said. "But at the same time, I think a lot of us guys that have been here the last couple years, we know we need to take the next step. We're ready for it and we know what we're capable of doing. We just need to be consistent doing it and that's something we're all trying to do this year."
McClendon downplayed the significance of winning his first game with the Mariners ("Talk to me when I get to 500 wins," he said), but the new skipper was happy to note how his team rallied from a 3-2 deficit to score twice in the top of the seventh to put Hernandez in position to win the game and then blew it open late to ensure that victory.
"Given the history of what Felix has done for this organization and the battles he's had and the lack of wins, it's really special to see our guys come back and win the ballgame for him," McClendon said. "That was really special and I was really happy for Felix."
Hernandez was thrilled as well when Zunino tripled in the tying run in the top of the seventh and then scored on Almonte's double, pulling the Mariners into their first lead of the game before McClendon went to his bullpen for the final three frames.
"I was yelling a lot," Hernandez said. "I was so happy Zunino came through. He did an unbelievable job behind the plate tonight. I was throwing a lot of wild pitches and he was blocking and blocking. His hand is pretty bruised. We were on the same page every time and he did a great job. Not only Zunino, but everybody."
Hernandez was replaced after throwing 103 pitches, but the Mariners needed three relievers to get through the seventh after Trout lined a single off Charlie Furbush's leg.
Tom Wilhelmsen replaced Furbush with two on and two out and got Albert Pujols to line out to center to preserve the lead and wound up with a perfect 1 1/3 innings before handing off to Danny Farquhar to finish up in the ninth.
By that time, the Mariners offense had broken things open with four hits and three walks all coming with two out in the ninth. All nine Seattle batters contributed either an RBI or a run scored and they worked Angels pitchers for eight walks along with the 11 hits.
"I think that's going to sum up how we're going to have to be this year," Zunino said. "We're going to have to have games from everybody. We're going to have to play as a team, have collective efforts from everybody and if we can throw the ball like we did tonight and get good starts and hand the ball over to our 'pen, I think we're going to be alright."
Hernandez became the first pitcher in Major League history to start seven Opening Day games before his 28th birthday. He also broke Randy Johnson's club records with his seventh Opening Day start and his sixth in a row.
Hernandez has now recorded double-digit strikeouts 27 times in his career, including twice on Opening Day. The 11 strikeouts were the most ever recorded by a pitcher against the Angels on Opening Day.
Cano got his first hit with the Mariners in the fourth inning with an infield single on a little squib-shot that rolled about 45 feet down the third-base line and added a double in the ninth-inning rally to finish 2-for-4.