Felix Hernandez aims to win his fourth straight decision this afternoon when the Seattle Mariners complete a four-game set with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Hernandez was magnificent in beating the Texas Rangers on Saturday, as the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner struck out 12 in a three-hit shutout to improve to 7-5 on the year, while lowering his ERA to 2.92.
"Today was unbelievable," said Hernandez. "I was pounding the strike zone, I was throwing pitches in every count. If you get ahead against those guys, you're doing a good job because they have a pretty good lineup."
Over his past six starts, the 26-year-old is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA (seven runs in 45 innings) with 56 strikeouts and six walks.
"He's pretty special," said Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager. "You see great hitters taking terrible swings. Anytime you get a guy doing that kind of thing, you know his stuff is the real deal."
It was the seventh time this season Hernandez has gone at least eight innings while allowing one run or fewer. The next closest pitcher in the Majors in that situation is R.A. Dickey of the Mets with five.
Hernandez has faced the Royals eight times and is 3-3 with a 2.92 ERA against them.
Kansas City, meanwhile, will counter with righty Luke Hochevar, who is 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA. Hochevar did not get a decision on Saturday against the Chicago White Sox, as he allowed three runs and five hits with three walks in five innings of his team's 6-3 win.
Hochevar is 2-1 in four starts versus the Mariners with a 3.16 ERA.
Kansas City got off the schneid on Wednesday, as Billy Butler's game-winning blast in the ninth inning carried the Royals to an 8-7 win.
"I just got a good pitch to hit and I didn't miss there at the end," Butler said. "Things like that tonight tend to have a positive reaction on the team and that's what we're looking for."
Butler's leadoff shot off Josh Kinney (0-1) landed in the seats in left- center and capped a 3-for-3 night for the All-Star slugger. It was the second career walk-off home run of Butler's career and snapped Kansas City's three- game slide in the process.
"Obviously I'm trying to keep the ball away from that guy," said Kinney. "If he's going to do that, you want him to hit it to right field and the ball just ran right over the plate."
Alex Gordon went 3-for-5 with two RBI and Lorenzo Cain belted a two-run homer in the win, which was credited to Greg Holland (4-2) for throwing a perfect ninth.
Seattle had won the first two games in the four-game series and came back from a 7-3 deficit to make things interesting.
Kyle Seager and Casper Wells each homered for the Mariners, whose starter, Kevin Millwood, was charged with seven runs on 10 hits over five frames.
Royals starter Bruce Chen wasn't much better, surrendering four runs on seven over in 5 1/3 innings.
Kansas City took five of eight from the Mariners last season.