He wasn't perfect in his last start, but Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is still riding an impressive unbeaten streak.
Hernandez will lead the Mariners into tonight's opener of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field and is 8-0 with a 1.53 earned run average in his last 13 starts. Seattle is 10-3 in that time and received 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball from the right-hander in last Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.
King Felix, who tossed the first perfect game in Mariners history on Aug. 15 versus Tampa Bay, is 12-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 26 starts and is aiming for at least 13 wins for a fourth consecutive campaign. Hernandez beat Minnesota back in early May, tossing eight scoreless innings and striking out nine in a 7-0 pounding at Safeco Field. He is 5-5 with a 2.40 ERA in 13 career starts against the Twins.
The Mariners could use some help in the pitching department since Kevin Millwood couldn't hold up his end of the bargain in a rain-shortened 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Millwood allowed all four runs, three of which were earned, and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"I wish we could have finished it off," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Our kids are playing so hard right now. They're fighting. We could have won all three of these games, too."
Casper Wells homered and Justin Smoak recorded a team-best two hits in defeat, Seattle's third in a row since an eight-game winning streak. Perhaps the possible return of center fielder Michael Saunders will help tonight, and he is currently dealing with a balky right groin muscle. Wells filled in at center field in Sunday's loss.
Saunders is batting .246 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI this season, and hasn't played since Friday's 9-8 loss to the White Sox. Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is close to returning and has been sidelined since late June with a concussion. He has two homers and nine RBI this season.
"I think he's close to heading our way," Wedge said of Gutierrez on the club's website Sunday. "He felt good again last night. We're going to talk further about it today, but I think he's getting close."
Minnesota enters this series opener fresh off Sunday's 6-5 win over the mighty Texas Rangers, salvaging a four-game set in the process.
Ben Revere helped the Twins end a five-game slide and win for only the third time in 17 games by going 4-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. Denard Span had two hits and crossed the plate twice for the Twins.
"We can score some runs," Twins manager Rod Gardenhire said. "We just need an opportunity to stay in games."
Cole De Vries recorded the win and gave up two runs -- one earned -- in five innings and Glen Perkins nailed down his eighth save in the ninth.
The Twins are back home following their 10-game road trip (2-8).
Star catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer is expected to make team history tonight and will break Earl Battey's all-time games caught record. Mauer has been behind the plate 831 times in his career and passed Battey for games started at catcher with 795 on Aug. 18 against the Mariners.
Twins slugger Justin Morneau is six home runs shy of passing Kirby Puckett (207) for fifth place on the club's all-time home run list.
Liam Hendriks is still searching for his first major league win and gets the nod for Minnesota tonight. Hendriks is 0-6 in nine starts with a 7.06 earned run average this season and has faced Seattle just once in his career. The right-hander posted a no-decision in a 5-4 setback last Sept. 20, allowing four runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 frames.
Hendriks is 0-8 with a 6.75 ERA in 13 lifetime starts, and has a tough challenge ahead going up against King Felix.
Minnesota has lost five of six matchups with Seattle this season.