SEATTLE -- The Mariners entered the 2010 season with a blueprint for American League West success centered around strong pitching and an opportunistic offense custom-made for Safeco Field. It might have taken a few games to showcase the whole package, but it was there in a big way in an 11-3 pasting of the Detroit Tigers before 39,999 on Friday night. The Mariners unloaded on Detroit with small ball, pushing across the most runs they've scored in a game since Aug. 9, tying their season-high with 12 hits -- 11 singles and a triple -- and, most importantly, delivering their ace, right-hander Felix Hernandez, his first win of the year.
After beginning the 2010 slate with a 2-5 road trip through Texas and Oakland, the Mariners have righted their ship at home, taking two of three from the A's earlier in the week before adding Friday's emphatic win over the Tigers to get within one game of .500 at 5-6. "I thought we played as a team tonight," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It was a great effort by everybody. You talk about the belief system when you have a pitcher like Felix on the mound, and you could feel it in the dugout from the start of the game." You could see it on the mound, too. Hernandez struck out the first two batters with a mixture of a 97-mph fastball, a 94-mph sinker and an 88-mph changeup that looked more like a split-fingered fastball, prompting catcher Rob Johnson to miss a few -- even taking one off the shin -- and describe it as an "air cutter." Whatever it was, the Tigers couldn't hit it or anything else for the first three innings. Hernandez was perfect through those frames, and despite a two-run hiccup on a Miguel Cabrera double in the fourth, Hernandez ended up with his Major League-best 16th straight quality start (six innings or more, three earned runs or less) by giving up two runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Hernandez, who struck out nine batters, said it was business as usual in his first home start of the year after finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting last season. "It feels the same," Hernandez said. "I was just trying to go out there and do my job. "Everything was working tonight. I got ahead in the count, and all my pitches were great. I didn't shake off Rob. He called a pitch, and I threw it. I enjoyed the game, and we won. It was good to finally get the first one." And it was good for the Mariners' offense to finally bust out, with contributions from almost everyone in the lineup. Franklin Gutierrez led the charge and continued his sizzling early season with three hits, including a triple and three RBIs. Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr. had two hits apiece, and Chone Figgins walked three times, stole a base, scored a run and drove in another. Milton Bradley and Johnson each had a hit and an RBI, and although Bradley was replaced in the seventh inning for what Wakamatsu described as "a little tenderness" in his knee, the skipper said it wasn't serious and was just a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Wakamatsu was seeing things on the field that he preached about during Spring Training. All nine starters reached base safely, Jack Wilson and Johnson put down successful bunts, the Mariners executed a perfect hit-and-run and drew six walks for the second straight night -- the first time the club has pulled off that feat since June 2007 -- and dating back to Wednesday's win over Oakland, Seattle has scored seven straight runs with two outs. In fact, in Friday's pivotal three-run third inning, the Mariners had five batters reach with two outs. Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman, who matched Hernandez with no-hit ball for 2 2/3 innings, quickly collapsed and ended up giving up 10 runs (eight earned) while throwing 93 pitches in four-plus innings. "I just kind of fell apart," Bonderman said. "I don't know what happened, to be honest with you. I was throwing the ball well. I was locating really well. And all of a sudden, I just got the ball up a little bit." Wakamatsu knew what happened, because he knows that if the Mariners are to win the AL West without a power-laden lineup, they will have to continue to score runs in this manner. On this night, it worked. "We're a much better offensive team than we've shown," Wakamatsu said. "We have to play fundamental baseball and constantly put pressure on the opposing team."
Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.