Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez strikes out five in rehab start with Tacoma, Rainiers push winning streak to five games

Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Dan Altavilla throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Dan Altavilla throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Seattle. AP

The headliner might have left the building before the night was over, but the Tacoma Rainiers never looked back after taking an early lead to beat Salt Lake 8-3 behind Felix Hernandez’ rehab start.

Hernandez worked into the fourth inning, exiting after allowing back-to-back walks. He threw 69 pitches, struck out five, and allowed one run in the top of the first.

After speaking to the media outside the clubhouse during the seventh inning, Hernandez started the drive back north with the Rainiers still putting the finishing touches on the win. He could be back with the Mariners as soon as the weekend.

“First inning, the command wasn’t as good as it got in the second and the third,” manager Daren Brown said after the game. “You get to the fourth inning, and probably a little fatigue and tiredness. But he got his work in, he felt good post, so I think overall, a good outing for him.”

Behind him, the Tacoma lineup jumped on Salt Lake starter Parker Bridwell early, taking advantage of a rally for free for a five-spot in the second.

Three straight walks loaded the bases with one out for the heart of Tacoma order, and the Rainiers made Bridwell pay. Eric Filia hit a sacrifice fly to give Tacoma the lead, Ryan Court and Jaycob Brugman smacked back-to-back doubles, Joe Odom went up the middle for an RBI single, and the Rainiers suddenly had a 6-1 lead.

“We were patient enough to wait and get some guys on base, and then get a couple of big hits,” Brown said. “The walks help us, and we were able to take advantage of it.”

Andreoli tied the game immediately in the bottom of the first, launching a long home run to the video board in left-center field. Daniel Castro added two more in the sixth.

Mike Wright replaced Hernandez on the hill in the fourth and earned the win. He went four innings and allowing two runs on four hits, his fewest in an outing in August.

“He’s scuffled a little bit the last few, but I think tonight he did a nice job of holding them down,” Brown said.

Brian Ellington and Matt Carasiti each added scoreless frames.

Brugman went 1-for-3, and extended his streak of games with an RBI to six. Andreoli went 2-for-3; he’s reached safely in 15 straight.

The Rainiers are currently on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season. They’ll try to extend it to six in the second matchup of their three-game series with the Bees on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.

Mariners reliever Dan Altavilla finding old form in latest Triple-A rehab stint

Before the Rainiers opened their three-game series against Salt Lake, pitching coach Lance Painter said he was quite happy with the major-league pitcher in Tacoma on a rehab assignment.

No, not that one.

“I’ve been very impressed,” Painter said of right-handed reliever Dan Altavilla. “I didn’t expect him to be as sharp has he has been. He’s comfortable on the mound, he looks good, his body’s working well. A lot of positives coming out right now.”

Altavilla is two appearances into his latest stint with the Triple-A club. He went an inning last Thursday, then another 1 1/3 innings Saturday after a day off. Both outings went 16 pitches, with 10 and 11 strikes in the first and second, respectively.

So far, he’s allowed one hit and one walk, and struck out three. More than that, though, Painter has liked what he’s seen from the man as much as the numbers.

“The velocity is there, the command has gotten much better, and it’s really because of his body working with his arm,” Painter said. “Early in the year, he was struggling staying connected, and had a hard time throwing strikes consistently. So now, when I watch his body movements, everything flows and there’s no violent early burst. Everything is working really well.”

Altavilla had Sunday and Monday off, but manager Daren Brown said he’s scheduled to throw again in Tuesday’s game. So the veteran right-hander, like most Seattle-based rehab players, was nowhere to be seen at Cheney Stadium Monday evening, staying closer to T-Mobile Park to get his work in.

“There’s no reason for them to fight the traffic every day to get here,” Brown joked.

Altavilla, the Mariners’ fifth-round draft pick in 2014, made it to the big leagues by August 2016. After posting a 0.73 ERA in 15 MLB outings that season, he spent 2017 bouncing back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.

The past two seasons have been ones plagued by injuries. He’s made just seven appearances with the Mariners this year, and none since July 5. But his past two outings in Tacoma have been a cause for hope.

“We have talked probably for two years now about trying to get him back to where he was in 2016, and the body movements he had then,” Painter said. “I think he started fine again in Double-A, and now that I’m watching him, he’s hitting right where I we were talking about. Being able to stay loaded over the rubber and then driving down the slope. That’s what I see right now.”

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