Felix Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past month and a half.
On Tuesday, he will go up against perhaps the best lineup in the game and one that may have gotten even better on Monday, as the Mariners continue their three-game series against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field.
Hernandez will also be facing a familiar face in Ichiro Suzuki, who was acquired by New York on Monday, just hours before the Yankees' 4-1 win in the series opener.
"We're excited to have him," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Suzuki. "It just changes our lineup when you have a guy that can do the things that he can do."
Suzuki received a standing ovation in his first at-bat and returned the favor to the Seattle faithful with a traditional bow of respect to both sides of the stadium and then fittingly reached out and slapped a solid single to center.
The 38-year-old Suzuki, who is a free agent at season's end, went 1-for-4 and stole a base in his Yankees debut, while Hiroki Kuroda spun seven innings of one-run ball to help New York snap its season-high four- game losing streak.
"I was on the opposite side today, it looks different being over here," said Suzuki through an interpreter. "But I was kind of worried getting up on that first at bat, but, with the standing ovation, I was really relieved. It was a special day today."
The AL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, Suzuki had spent his entire career with the Mariners, hitting .322 over that span. He was named an All- Star in 10 straight seasons from 2001-2010, while capturing a Gold Glove Award in each of those campaigns.
"It was a weird feeling," said Mariners catcher John Jaso of not having Suzuki on the team. "Once the game started the only weird thing was seeing him in a Yankees uniform.
Kuroda (10-7) fanned nine and surrendered three hits to win his career-high tying fourth straight decision.
Alex Rodriguez tallied two hits, including a solo homer, and two runs, Mark Teixeira recorded three hits, an RBI and a run scored and Rafael Soriano notched his 25th save of the year with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Kevin Millwood (3-8) was charged with three runs on nine hits and two walks in seven innings for Seattle, which had won five of its last seven. The Yankees took two of three from the Mariners earlier in the year.
Hernandez, meanwhile, has given up just two runs in his last 24 2/3 innings and is 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his past seven starts. He was brilliant against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, holding the Royals to a run and eight hits in eight innings to improve to 8-5, while lowering his ERA to 2.82.
In 12 starts against the Yankees Hernadez is 6-5 with a 3.45.
New York will counter with Hernandez's boyhood idol, Freddy Garcia, who is 4-3 with a 5.37 ERA. Garcia absorbed the loss in Oakland on Thursday, as he allowed four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I couldn't find my stuff today," Garcia said after the outing. "I was in trouble the whole game, but I was able to keep the game close."
Garcia, who pitched the first five-plus years of his career in Seattle, is 5-3 against his former team with a 5.23 ERA in 10 starts.
"He sent me a text a couple days ago saying, 'Dude, we're going to pitch together,'" Hernandez said. "I said, 'I know.' It's going to be fun. But I've got to do my job, too."
The Yanks took two of three from the Mariners earlier in the year.