"I'm a pro baseball player now," Hernandez said after he'd cooled down following the game. "First ejection."
The 10-year veteran was far happier to record his first win since April 11 as he improved to 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA. After starting the year with three straight wins, he'd gone 0-1 with four no-decisions and a 3.13 ERA in his next five outings, but the Mariners erased any doubts in this one by jumping on Rays starter Cesar Ramos for nine runs in the first three frames.
Hernandez had a four-hit shutout through six, but finished with eight hits and four runs with no walks and seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings after Rays designated hitter David DeJesus greeted reliever Tom Wilhelmsen with an RBI double following Hernandez's removal.
"I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well for six innings," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "Obviously the long innings didn't help and he elevated some balls in that last inning. But it was still a pretty good outing for him."
It was an even better outing for the Mariners' offense as first baseman Justin Smoak and catcher Mike Zunino each hit their sixth homers of the year and rookie right fielder Stefen Romero went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, a double and a home run as Seattle cranked out 14 hits and took advantage of four Rays errors.
Ramos gave up all 11 of his hits and nine runs in the first three innings, with three doubles and a home run setting the tone, before he settled in and got through 6 2/3 innings by recording 13 straight outs to finish his night. But the 29-year-old didn't get much help from his defense either as the Rays committed their four errors in the first two frames, with four of Seattle's five runs in the second being unearned.
The early carnage could have been even worse, but Robinson Cano and Corey Hart each hit deep shots that bounced off the yellow line atop Safeco Field's eight-foot high outfield fence on back-to-back blasts in the first.
Both hits led to umpire-initiated home run reviews, with replay confirming that both balls were in play off the top of the wall. Cano wound up with an RBI double on his opposite-field blast, just inches from a home run. Hart thought his ball had cleared the right-field fence and was thrown out sliding into second, leaving him with an RBI single in Seattle's three-run first.
Zunino left nothing to chance in the second, sailing a leadoff home run over the fence in right to make it 4-0. And by the end of that frame, the Mariners had sent 11 batters to the plate and cranked the score up to 8-0 with help from throwing errors on Ramos and third baseman Evan Longoria and a fielding error on first baseman James Loney, who let a routine grounder by Dustin Ackley go between his legs.
"We got ambushed," said Rays skipper Joe Maddon. "We just sashayed into the canyon and there was firing from both sides. It happens. You've gotta be careful. We just got ambushed. To their credit, they hit the ball well. They hit the ball hard."
The Rays flew to Seattle from Tampa after a day game Sunday and though they arrived in town by 10 p.m. PT, they were adjusting to the three-hour time difference. The Mariners deal frequently with such travel and McClendon had some empathy.
"We were lucky. They don't usually do that," McClendon said of the Rays' sloppy play. "It just goes to show you how tough this traveling is. I think their flight was five hours getting in here. And with the time change, it's just tough to perform like that .We had that coming home from Miami. It's tough, but you have to get up and get going."
Hart added another RBI single in the third for a 9-0 lead and Hernandez had all the cushion he could want against a team that he threw a perfect game against in their last meeting in 2012.
Hernandez has dominated the Rays at Safeco Field, going 5-0 with a 1.34 ERA in nine starts. Wil Myers' infield single in the second inning snapped Hernandez's streak of 13 straight hitless innings against Tampa Bay, dating back to April 30, 2012.
Rookie center fielder James Jones continued his strong play as he went 2-for-5 with three runs in his third game in the leadoff role and made a nice sliding catch to rob Ben Zobrist of a single leading off the fourth.
With Jones setting the table, the Mariners' 2-3-4 hitters -- Romero, Cano and Hart -- combined for seven hits, seven RBIs and five runs of their own -- as Seattle improved to 20-18 on the season.
"That's going to be my approach every day, just try to get on base and let the guys behind me drive me in," said Jones, who is hitting .391 in his first 10 games. "It felt good for the guys just all around, one through nine, to be productive like that."