Felix Hernandez bounced back from his only loss of 2015, and wiped away the bad memory of one of his most disappointing starts of 2014, too.
Nelson Cruz hit his big league-leading 17th home run, Hernandez became the first seven-game winner in the majors and the Seattle Mariners beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Friday night.
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Beaten by Boston in his previous outing, Hernandez (7-1) responded with seven sharp innings, lowering his ERA to 2.19.
"It was nice to see him bounce back from his last start," Cruz said of Hernandez. "His curveball looked good."
Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out homer in the first was the only blemish for Hernandez, who gave up four hits and walked two.
"Every time I come here he hits a homer against me," Hernandez said of Encarnacion. "It was a slider that stayed right in the middle of the plate."
The last time Hernandez pitched in Toronto, everyone was hitting him hard. The Blue Jays scored seven runs in one inning against Hernandez to dent Seattle’s wild-card hopes September 23. It was the worst inning the Cy Young Award winner has ever endured.
"I was not thinking anything about what happened last year," Hernandez said Friday. "I’m just trying to go out there and do my job and help the team win."
Hernandez did that this time, striking out eight to move past Catfish Hunter and into a tie with Orel Hershiser for 70th on baseball’s career strikeout list.
"He was outstanding," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Left one slider and that was about it. He was pretty darn good. Pretty impressive outing."
Toronto lost for the eighth time in 10 games and fell to 2-9 in one-run games.
"It’s tough to beat guys like (Hernandez)," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Hernandez came in 5-6 in 13 career starts against Toronto. His 4.80 ERA against the Blue Jays was the highest of any opponent he’s faced more than once.
"He had all four pitches working really well," catcher Mike Zunino said. "Just another great start from him."
After Carson Smith worked the eighth, Chris Colabello hit a two-run homer off Fernando Rodney in the ninth.
Kevin Pillar was called out on video review after trying to dive around Logan Morrison’s tag on a bunt attempt, with replays showing Morrison tagged Pillar on the right foot. Rodney got pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson to fly out for his 11th save.
The Mariners scored three times with a two-out rally in the fourth. Kyle Seager singled, Welington Castillo walked and Morrison hit a two-run triple past a diving Colabello in right.
"I was pretty sick about it," Colabello said of his costly miscue. "You get an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach."
Zunino followed with an RBI double.
Cruz made it 4-1 with a leadoff drive to center off Marco Estrada in the sixth.
Estrada (1-3) remained winless in four starts. He allowed four runs and six hits in a season-high seven innings.
KING OF THE ROAD
Hernandez is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four road starts.
This was the first of six straight games on artificial turf for the Mariners, who visit Tampa Bay for a three-game series beginning Monday. They’re the only six games all season Seattle will play on artificial turf.
Mariners: OF Austin Jackson (right ankle) went 1 for 4 with a walk and struck out three time in his first five plate appearances in a rehab game with Triple-A Tacoma.
Blue Jays: Toronto put 2B Devon Travis (left shoulder) on the 15-day DL and selected INF Munenori Kawasaki from Triple-A Buffalo. … Starting at DH, Jose Reyes (left ribs) went 1 for 3 and walked twice in his second rehab game with Buffalo.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton (2-2, 3.59) carries a 20-inning scoreless streak into Saturday’s start against the Blue Jays. Paxton hasn’t allowed a run since Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer off him in the first inning on May 5. Paxton, from British Columbia, will make his second career start in Canada. He didn’t fare well in the first, allowing a career-high nine runs (eight earned) in 2 2/3 innings last Sept. 22.
Blue Jays: LHP Mark Buehrle (5-3, 5.36) beat the Mariners in his only start against them last season, striking out 10 in eight shutout innings.