SEATTLE - Felix Hernandez pitched with a comfortable lead, for a change. Only after Seattle's ace got through a messy first two innings.
Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer and a two-run double in his first two at-bats, and Hernandez helped the Mariners hand the Chicago White Sox their eighth straight loss with a 7-4 victory Tuesday night.
Seattle scored three times in the first inning and three times in the third to give Hernandez a rare cushion on a night when he wasn't at his best early. Thanks to the lead, Hernandez (7-4) was eventually able to find a groove and he ended up pitching into the eighth inning to win his second straight start.
"I thought he had to work a little today. He made it difficult on himself working behind sometimes, he left a few pitches out early on, but did a nice job reeling it back in," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He did a real nice job of gathering himself and did a better job executing pitches. I think he was a little sloppy with his delivery early on but he tightened it up."
It helped that Hernandez was given room for error thanks largely to Ibanez.
Seattle came through with two outs twice in the first inning. Kendrys Morales had an RBI single to score Endy Chavez, and that was immediately followed by Ibanez's homer on the first pitch from Chicago starter Jake Peavy. It was Ibanez's 11th homer and second in two games.
Two innings later, Ibanez doubled into the right-field corner to score Jason Bay and Morales for his second game this season with at least four RBIs.
"I just figured, try to be aggressive early and get a good pitch to hit and it worked out," Ibanez said.
The anticipated matchup between former Cy Young Award winners Hernandez and Peavy (6-4) never materialized into a pitching showdown. Hernandez gave up runs in each of the first two innings, while Peavy was knocked around for six earned runs and seven hits in just 2 1-3 innings before leaving with an injury to his ribs.
Hernandez settled down quickly after giving up a run in the first and Adam Dunn's long homer to centre field in the second. After Dunn's 13th homer of the season and a single by Alexei Ramirez, Hernandez retired 16 of the next 17 batters and faced the minimum over the next five innings. His only mistake was a walk to Jordan Danks in the fifth, but he was quickly erased on a double play.
Ramirez led off the eighth with a single, the first Chicago hit since the second inning, and Tyler Flowers chased Hernandez with an RBI double. Oliver Perez gave up an RBI single but got out of the eighth, and Tom Wilhelmsen worked the ninth for his 14th save in 17 chances.
Hernandez went 7 1-3 innings, allowing four runs while striking out eight and walking one.
"I had a pretty good fastball today and I realized they were just sitting on breaking balls with two strikes so I just tried using my fastball," Hernandez said. "They were just waiting for the changeup and I recognized it and I was able to throw my fastball for strikes."
Seattle might have more roster shuffling ahead. Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre left in the fifth inning after taking a foul ball off the back of his left hand, and X-rays at the stadium may have shown a possible small fracture. Sucre was set for more exams Wednesday morning and the team may need to make a roster move.
Seattle has only two healthy catchers at Triple-A, including prized prospect Mike Zunino.
"We're kind of in a pickle here but we're going to have to try and cover ourselves," Wedge said.
Peavy left the game after Ibanez's double. X-rays were negative, but he had an MRI scheduled for Wednesday morning. He was tagged for six earned runs for the second straight start after lasting just four innings against the Chicago Cubs in his previous outing. Peavy said he doesn't think he'll be able to make his next start.
"You can just tell by the way he was throwing that something didn't look right, so we went out and checked and he wasn't able to get any velocity on it," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "It was one of those, you don't want him to go out there and continue and hurt something."
NOTES: Seattle's Nick Franklin had a home run in the third inning overturned after replays showed it hit the top of the wall and bounced back. It was the third time a home run call has been reversed at Safeco Field. ... Sucre's replacement, Kelly Shoppach, had a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score Michael Saunders. ... Chicago lost its ninth straight road game.