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SEA@HOU: Felix fans nine en route to 100th career win

HOUSTON -- For Felix Hernandez, the fourth time was the charm Monday as the Mariners ace finally won his 100th career game with six scoreless innings in Seattle's 7-1 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

With some overdue help from his offense, Hernandez evened his record at 2-2 for the season. He is now 100-78 in his Mariners tenure after losing twice and getting a no-decision since recording win No. 99 on Opening Day.

"Finally. Finally," Hernandez said after emerging from a beer-shower celebration courtesy of his teammates. "It took too long. But it felt great. One hundred wins in the big leagues and hopefully I can get more and more. My teammates did a great job out there scoring runs. It felt good."

Manager Eric Wedge acknowledged the milestone was significant and had been weighing on everyone's minds as the wait lingered.

"I'm glad it's behind him," said Wedge."Obviously, it's something you can't not think about as a pitcher or player or even as manager or coach. I was really happy for him. He's accomplished so much, so quickly, for a young man. It's a great accomplishment."

Hernandez becomes the third pitcher in Mariners history to crack the 100-win mark, joining Jamie Moyer (145) and Randy Johnson (130).

"It's a great honor to be on that list," said Hernandez, who lowered his ERA to 2.08 while giving up just five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts.

Hernandez was removed after six innings at 93 pitches after feeling some tightness in his back, but both he and Wedge said that was just a precaution.

Hernandez can be excused for feeling the strain of trying to lift the team out of its recent doldrums. The Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak and boosted their offensive numbers a bit in the process after scoring just three runs total in their previous three-game series at Texas.

They had five runs by the fourth inning Monday en route to their highest-scoring game since a 16-9 loss to the Astros two weeks ago in Seattle.

"It was a great day offensively and even better to get Felix some runs early, so he could settle in and do what he does," said third baseman Kyle Seager, one of three Mariners with a home run.

The Mariners totaled just nine runs in Hernandez's first four starts, as he had the second-lowest run support of any American League starter coming in. But two-run homers by Seager in the third and Jesus Montero in the fourth turned the tide quickly against Seattle's new AL West rivals.

Kendrys Morales added a solo shot in the fifth and went 2-for-4, while Dustin Ackley was 3-for-4 and Justin Smoak 2-for-3 on a night that the Mariners racked up a dozen hits.

Seager continued his impressive recent run by going 2-for-5 with two RBIs and his second home run in as many days. The 25-year-old is hitting .381 (16-for-42) with eight RBIs during a career-high 11-game hitting streak, hiking his batting average from .147 to .276 in the process.

Montero mashed his first long ball of the season after Ackley doubled in the fourth, while Smoak doubled and scored on a Montero sacrifice fly an inning later. Montero had gone 33 games and 132 at-bats since his last home run in 2012, when he hit 15 as a rookie.

"I just feel happy, because I helped Felix to win," Montero said when asked about his 433-foot homer to left-center. "I feel good because he got that 100th win and thank God I hit a homer and helped give him a little more confidence. I was starting to worry. It's been like three weeks without a homer. What's going on? But we got the win and that's the most important thing."

It was a welcome night for all the struggling young Mariners hitters, and Hernandez took full advantage against an Astros team that is off to a 5-14 start, but scored its only series win of the season over Seattle earlier this month at Safeco Field.

"I know we've been struggling a little bit, but we're going to get hot," said Hernandez. "We're going to score runs. I believe in my teammates. They try hard, and we're going to score. It makes you feel good as a teammate and as a pitcher."

The Mariners raised their team batting average from .218 to .224 and Ackley jumped from .161 to .197 with his three-hit night.

"He' been getting better," said Wedge. "And Smoak put up some good at-bats, and Seager has been on the right path for a while now. It was nice to see Kendrys hit the ball the way he did and Montero, too. We saw some good things happen tonight that these guys should be able to build on."

After Hernandez's departure, the Astros got on the board with a home run by Rick Ankiel off Carter Capps in the seventh.

But the only real downside on the night for the Mariners was another injury to Franklin Gutierrez, who left the game in the fourth inning with a tight hamstring after making a diving attempt on a bloop single to shallow center by Chris Carter. He may go on the disabled list.

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