SEATTLE — Knowing his ace had a sore quadriceps muscle and was nearing 100 pitches, six innings from Felix Hernandez was plenty for Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon.
Hernandez had other ideas and won the debate with his manager this time.
"I think it looks better, seven innings," Hernandez said with a grin.
Hernandez struck out 12 and Mike Zunino's first home run of the season gave Seattle the lead for good as the Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
Hernandez (2-0) was brilliant on his bobblehead night, allowing one run and two hits. The ace right-hander struck out 10 or more batters for the 34th time in his career and beat Texas for the first time since July 14, 2012.
Earlier in the week, Hernandez's sore quad raised concern that he might need to skip Saturday's start and get rest. In a way, the injury proved to be a benefit.
"My comfort level was fine. I think it helped me to stay back a little bit and not to push too much and not to jump too much," Hernandez said.
Zunino's homer came after a miserable first 10 games when he struck out in nearly half his at-bats. Zunino's drive went 412 feet into the second deck in left on the first pitch of the fifth inning from Colby Lewis (1-1) and gave Seattle a 2-1 lead.
"He is an ambush hitter," Lewis said. "I just didn't make my pitch."
Brad Miller added a two-out RBI triple in the sixth as Seattle finally came through with a runner in scoring position and two outs.
The Mariners left the bases loaded twice and ran themselves out of scoring opportunities in each of the first three innings.
Austin Jackson was sent by third base coach Rich Donnelly while trying to score from first on Robinson Cano's one-out double in the first and was thrown out at the plate by 10 feet. Kyle Seager attempted a delayed steal of second on a ball in the dirt in the second inning and was easily thrown out. And Miller was picked off second base by catcher Robinson Chirinos with one out in the third.
"Felix did a great job of keeping us in that ballgame so any runs that we can get in a game like that are huge so just to be able to do that was nice," Zunino said.
Ultimately the baserunning issues didn't matter because of Hernandez's pitching. Leonys Martin was the only Texas batter to get a hit off Hernandez, reaching on a broken-bat double in the first and singling in the fifth inning when Texas got its only run.
Hernandez's 12 strikeouts were his most since recording 15 against Tampa Bay in June 2014. Martin was the only Texas batter not to strike out.
The only mistake Hernandez made was hitting Jake Smolinski on the hand on a check swing in the fifth. The play was reviewed, with Seattle claiming it was a foul ball, but the call stood. Smolinski advanced to third on Martin's single and scored on Elvis Andrus' grounder.
It was the second batter Hernandez hit, although he is certain he hit only one.
"There was only one. The other was a foul ball," Hernandez said.
Struggling closer Fernando Rodney worked a perfect ninth for his third save in four chances. Rodney needed just 14 pitches to roll through the middle of the Rangers' order after blowing a save his last time out against the Dodgers.
Rangers: Mitch Moreland was out of the lineup again with an elbow injury. Moreland went through early batting practice but was not in the Rangers lineup for the second straight night.
Mariners: Seattle activated SS Chris Taylor from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Tacoma. Taylor had been playing with Tacoma as part of a rehab assignment after fracturing a bone in his right wrist during spring training.
Rangers: Left-handed Ross Detwiler (0-2) will make his third start after getting knocked around in his first two. Detwiler has allowed five earned runs in both of his outings this season.
Mariners: Lefty James Paxton (0-1) gets his third start. Paxton has gone at least six innings in his first two starts of the season, but allowed five earned runs in his last outing against the Dodgers.
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