SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez pitching at his best, backed by key hits from Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo.
It’s a scenario the Seattle Mariners got a glimpse of on Friday night and one they expected to see far more than they have this season.
"We’re a better club from an offensive standpoint than we showed in the first half and I think it’s starting to come to fruition and guys are starting to swing the way they’re capable of swinging," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Hernandez pitched seven strong innings to pick up his 12th win of the season, Trumbo gave Seattle the lead with a two-run homer and the Mariners beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2.
Seattle opened a key six-game homestand by getting production throughout its batting order and another solid performance from its staff ace.
Trumbo’s opposite-field shot in the fourth off Toronto starter Marco Estrada (7-6) was his third homer since joining Seattle and gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Cano continued his hot month with a two-run triple in the fifth scoring Cruz from first base. Cano later scored on a wild pitch with two outs to make it 5-1.
It is the first time Seattle has won consecutive games since June 30 and July 1.
Jose Bautista hit a solo homer in the sixth inning for Toronto, and the Blue Jays threatened in the seventh with runners on the corners and two outs, but Hernandez (12-5) struck out Jose Reyes on three pitches.
Hernandez joined Houston’s Dallas Keuchel as the only pitchers in the American League with 12 victories. He gave up six hits and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.69.
Toronto got an unearned run in the first — helped by Hernandez’s throwing error — but otherwise did little against the All-Star. Hernandez passed Fernando Valenzuela for 65th on the all-time strikeout list with 2,075.
Hernandez retired 10 straight and 16 of 17 before Bautista lined his 21st homer of the season off the hand-operated scoreboard in left field. It was Bautista’s 224th homer with Toronto, moving him into second place in franchise history.
Hernandez threw 22 pitches in the first inning — 10 in one at-bat to Bautista — but was efficient with his pitch count after that shaky start.
"I feel like I started off a little better and commanded the strike zone way better and made good pitches," Hernandez said.
Carson Smith pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 10 chances.
Estrada started in place of Drew Hutchison, who was scratched for the second straight day due to illness but is expected to start on Saturday. The five earned runs were the most allowed by Estrada in his past six starts and tied a season-high.
"He made some good pitches at times. Then that one inning, when they knocked him around a little bit, that’s the way it goes," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Hernandez, he’s not going to give you much room. When he’s on, you’re playing with fire."
McClendon flipped Seattle’s lineup earlier this week in Detroit and has gone with Cruz batting No. 3 and Cano fourth. Cano said he’s seeing some different pitches batting fourth now and is having more RBI opportunities with Cruz and Kyle Seager getting on base.
Blue Jays: Injured OF Michael Saunders is not expected back with the club until September at the earliest. Gibbons said Saunders is currently working out in Florida after undergoing surgery during spring training.
Mariners: LHP Charlie Furbush had a setback in his recovery from soreness in his pitching arm and has yet to throw off a mound. The Mariners are hoping he’ll get some flat-ground throwing in the next few days and will likely need a rehab assignment before rejoining the rotation.
Blue Jays: Hutchison (9-2) is expected to try for his 10th win. Gibbons said Hutchison was feeling better Friday but thought best to push him one more day. Hutchison’s ERA is 5.19 but he’s received the most run support of any pitcher in baseball at 7.88 runs per game.
Mariners: J.A. Happ (4-5) starts against his former team for the first time since being traded to Seattle last off-season. Happ got a no decision in his last two starts, both against Detroit.