ANAHEIM -- A swarm of bees at Angel Stadium couldn't stop Felix Hernandez on Sunday afternoon, but a high pitch count in a 10-strikeout performance did make for a short outing as the Mariners ace went only four innings in his first start in 20 days after recovering from a strained oblique muscle in his left side.
Justin Smoak's two-run homer in the sixth lifted Seattle to a 3-2 victory over the Angels as the Mariners closed out a 10-game road trip with a 3-7 record, picking up just their third victory in their last 14 games overall.
Hernandez struck out 10 batters while allowing just one hit and one run, but reached 92 pitches and was replaced by Oliver Perez to start the fifth. The 27-year-old became the first pitcher in Major League history with 10 strikeouts in a game in which he didn't pitch more than four innings.
"It was different," Hernandez said after missing nearly three weeks. "I was strong, trying not to overthrow and just throw strikes. But I threw too many pitches. I struck out a lot of guys, but threw too many pitches.
"I looked at the scoreboard and saw 70-something pitches in the third. I was like, 'Really? Is this happening?' Then the bees came in and I was thinking, 'What's going on here?'"
Hernandez's outing was delayed 23 minutes in the bottom of the third by a swarm of bees that circled over the field, first driving Hernandez off the mound before eventually settling by the right-field fence. Umpires pulled Seattle's defenders off the field until fan John Poto -- an apiarist at local beehive removal company Honey Pacifico -- volunteered to come on the field and helped herd the swarm away.
The strikeout string didn't end with Hernandez's departure, as Perez and Carter Capps combined to whiff five more Angels to give Seattle 15 on the day.
Hernandez walked four, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, as his record remained 12-9 with a 2.99 ERA with the no-decision. Hernandez has thrown 198 1/3 innings this year and will make one final start Friday at Safeco Field against the A's, looking for his sixth straight 200-plus inning season.
"I have one more start. It's important to me," Hernandez said of finishing out the season on the mound. "That's why they have me here, to pitch, right? I've got to pitch. Every year I try to have 200 or more."
Hernandez struck out the first four batters he faced until Howie Kendrick lined a double into the left-center gap in the second. Kendrick wound up scoring on a bases-loaded fielders' choice grounder by Efren Navarro before Hernandez struck out Andrew Romine for his fifth punchout in the first two innings to leave the game tied at 1.
Hernandez said his oblique felt fine afterward, but he clearly had one of his more unusual outings with the high pitch count resulting in the shortest start of his career when he'd allowed one run or less.
"He just didn't quite have the same command," manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously, he had great stuff with all the strikeouts, but with the combination of walks and strikeouts, you're going to throw a lot of pitches."
"He had good stuff," said Angels skipper Mike Scioscia. "His stuff was probably a little better than we'd seen earlier this year, so the layoff may have refreshed him a little bit. I thought we did a good job of making him work. He went four innings, 90-plus pitches. I thought we did a decent job in the box against him. He's tough. When push came to shove, he walked four, but he struck out 10 of the 12 outs he got."
The Mariners had taken a 1-0 lead in the second on doubles by Kendrys Morales and Mike Zunino, with the rookie catcher plating the run with his one-out double down the first-base line.
Smoak's two-run shot off C.J. Wilson was his 18th homer of the year, but the first right-handed for the switch-hitting first baseman.
"It's been awhile," said Smoak, a natural right-handed hitter who hit seven homers from that side last year. "But I felt like I had decent at-bats today, right-handed. ... It was good to get us on the board there."
Kole Calhoun closed the game to 3-2 with a leadoff homer in the eighth off Yoervis Medina, who had come on in the seventh and gotten the Mariners out of jam by retiring Kendrick on a bases-loaded flyout. Danny Farquhar then closed out the win for his 15th save.
The Mariners finished their season series with the Angels at 8-11 for a second straight year. The Halos have won eight straight season series over Seattle and are 27-11 against the Mariners at Angel Stadium over the past four seasons.