SEATTLE -- A Mariners team that has turned things around with a strong June could get a further boost from the return of Felix Hernandez, as the veteran right-hander showed Friday in a 13-3 runaway win over the American League West-leading Astros in his first game off the disabled list.Hernandez
SEATTLE -- A Mariners team that has turned things around with a strong June could get a further boost from the return of Felix Hernandez, as the veteran right-hander showed Friday in a 13-3 runaway win over the American League West-leading Astros in his first game off the disabled list.
Hernandez can't take credit for the continued offensive outburst, but he certainly can provide another solid starter who is capable of taking advantage of that support now that he's overcome a two-month bout with bursitis in his shoulder.
"Oh my gosh, it's a blast playing behind that guy," said rookie left fielder Ben Gamel, who had a chance to perform directly in front of a rowdy King's Court amid a crowd of 31,783. "The atmosphere and just everything he brings to the table, no doubt it's a boost. Everyone they've called up has done an awesome job, but it's huge having Felix back."
The 31-year-old has pitched much of his career without the kind of firepower the Mariners are putting on display, so it's easy to understand the smile on Hernandez's face after he was staked to a 7-1 lead after three innings and cruised to the win.
"It feels good," Hernandez said. "King's Court was unbelievable. The crowd was amazing. And the guys did a great job putting a lot of runs on the board. This lineup is pretty scary. It's good to see."
Hernandez back on the hill was a welcome sight for a club that has survived much of the first three months with four of their starters on the disabled list. Now Hernandez joins James Paxton on the returnee list and the club also has gotten a boost from rookie Sam Gaviglio and now Andrew Moore following his first appearance Thursday.
"Guys know what he means for us and the long haul of the remainder of the season and how important it is to keep him healthy," manager Scott Servais said. "We're not looking for shutouts every time, just keep us in the ballgame, get deep, give us six innings and then we're in pretty good shape. I trust our offense and we're going to be able to score runs. It's a boost just knowing he's out there and can go deep into games."
The Astros have been an Achilles' heel the past two years for Hernandez, who was 0-4 with an 11.15 ERA in four previous starts against Houston since 2015. Particularly troublesome has been Jose Altuve, who homered off Hernandez in the first inning and is batting .483 (14-for-29) in his career against the former Cy Young Award winner.
The Astros again hit the ball hard at times against Hernandez, as Alex Bregman added a solo homer in the fifth and four of their eight hits went for extra bases. But with the big early lead, Hernandez limited the damage and won his 157th career game in the process, which moved him past Freddy Garcia for the most victories by a Venezuelan-born pitcher in Major League history.
"It's an honor to pass my really good friend," Hernandez said of his former teammate.
And his current teammates were just as happy to see the King back where he belongs.
"That's our guy," said center fielder Jarrod Dyson. "He's a competitor and he's going to lay it all on the line. He did a great job for us tonight. It was good to see him out there and good to get some runs for him."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [