Albert Pujols, right, celebrates Mark Trumbo's three-run home run… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Felix Hernandez entered Thursday night's game in Angel Stadium with a 99-25 record and 2.89 earned-run average in 162 career starts in which the Seattle Mariners gave him two or more runs of support.
So when the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, one of baseball's best pitchers, took a three-run lead to the mound in the first inning and a seven-run lead in the third, a Seattle victory seemed as much a foregone conclusion as a Tiger Woods tap-in putt from four inches.
Until the Angels started teeing off.
BOX SCORE: Angels 10, Seattle 9
The Angels pounded Hernandez for seven straight hits, including homers by Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo, in a five-run fifth, tied the game in the sixth, fell behind in the eighth and scored twice in the bottom of the eighth for a dramatic 10-9 comeback win over the Mariners, their most stirring victory of the season.
The seven-run deficit overcome was the largest of the season and one shy of the franchise-record eight-run deficit overcome in 13-12 win over Detroit on Aug. 29, 1986.
"You're rarely going to come back after getting down by that much against a pitcher of Felix's caliber, but our guys did a great job," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "You couldn't piece together any better than they did. The quality of at-bats was tremendous."
The Mariners took a 9-8 lead in the eighth when Brendan Ryan singled off reliever Kevin Jepsen, took second on Endy Chavez's sacrifice bunt, third on Nick Franklin's fly to center, and scored on Kyle Seager's fourth hit, a double to right off left-hander Scott Downs.
But the Angels roared back in the bottom of the eighth, Bourjos leading off with his third hit, a single to center off Carter Capps. Bourjos stole second and took third when catcher Henry Blanco's throw squirted into shallow center.
Erick Aybar singled to right to score Bourjos for a 9-9 tie and took third on Mike Trout's fourth hit, a single to left. With the infield in, Albert Pujols grounded sharply to Franklin at second, Aybar staying in a rundown long enough for Trout to take third and Pujols second.
Trumbo was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Howie Kendrick hit a hard grounder to shortstop, but Ryan made a backhand diving stop and, from one knee, threw home to force Trout. But Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina walked Alberto Callaspo on four pitches to force in Pujols for a 10-9 Angels lead.
Justin Smoak flied to the wall in right to open the ninth, but Angels closer Ernesto Frieri struck out Michael Saunders and Michael Morse to nail down the victory and his 17th save.
What can such a comeback do for a struggling club?
"Hopefully it will inspire you, the next time you're down by two or three runs, to keep playing baseball," Scioscia said. "That's something the young guys have to experience and understand."
Angels right-hander Tommy Hanson was rocked for seven runs and six hits in two innings.
The Angels scored single runs in the third and fourth innings before doing their serious damage in the fifth, cutting an 8-2 deficit to 8-7. Bourjos led off with a homer to left-center, Aybar and Trout singled, and Pujols flared a broken-bat RBI single to center to make it 8-4.
Trumbo then clobbered a Hernandez curve into the rockpile beyond the center-field wall for a three-run homer, his team-leading 17th, to make it 8-7. Kendrick singled to center and tried to advance on Saunders' bobble but was out at second.
Callaspo singled to right before a pair of groundouts ended the inning. The seven straight hits tied an Angels record and were the most Hernandez has allowed in a row in his 10-year career.
The Angels tied it in the sixth when Bourjos singled, took second on Aybar's bunt and, after an intentional walk to Trout, scored on Pujols' single to make it 8-8.