At the conclusion of August, Seattle Mariners starter Felix Hernandez looked like a prime candidate for the AL Cy Young Award.
That hasn't been the case thus far in September and the ace will look to avoid a third straight loss on Thursday in the finale of a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hernandez, the 2010 recipient of the AL's top pitching honor, went 4-0 with a 1.08 earned run average last month in five starts, throwing a 12-strikeout perfect game on Aug. 15 versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
The right-hander, though, has given up 11 runs (9 earned) and 20 hits over 12 innings of back-to-back losses to begin September. Hernandez was touched for five earned runs over 4 2/3 frames of a setback to the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
"Every pitch was up," said Hernandez, who dropped to 13-7 with a 2.67 ERA this season. "I fell behind a couple of times ... well, not a couple of times, a lot of times and they made me pay. It was not my day."
The 26-year-old hopes to make it his day in his first meeting this season with the Blue Jays, who he is 3-3 against in eight career starts with a 4.37 ERA.
August wasn't as kind to Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez, but he has a chance at logging a second straight win tonight.
The 22-year-old righty snapped a five-decision losing streak on Friday with a triumph over the Boston Red Sox, allowing a pair of runs on four hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings for his first win since July 28.
"He was powerful," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Alvarez. "He threw a lot of strikes and he kept the ball on the ground."
Alvarez improved to 8-12 with a 4.95 ERA through 27 starts this season and that includes a win over the Mariners on April 29. Facing them for the second time in his career, Alvarez allowed a run over six innings of work.
Seattle held on for a 3-2 victory in Wednesday's meeting, getting a solo homer from Miguel Olivo and a two-run single by Franklin Gutierrez, with that fourth-inning hit proving to be the difference.
The Mariners were swept in three games by the Athletics prior to this series but can now log their second straight sweep of the Blue Jays after taking all three encounters of their last meeting on July 30-Aug. 1 in Seattle.
Kevin Millwood allowed two runs on two hits and a walk over five innings before leaving with stiffness in his shoulder, while Tom Wilhelmsen tossed a scoreless ninth inning to record his 26th save of the year.
"We'll see how he feels when he comes in here the next couple of days," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said if Millwood will miss his next start.
Ricky Romero surrendered all three runs on eight hits and four walks through four-plus innings to remain winless in 14 starts. He is 0-13 over that span and has not recorded a win since June 22 for Toronto.
"We're going to continue to work with him," Farrell said. "We're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."
Edwin Encarnacion's two-run homer accounted for Toronto's offense as the Blue Jays dropped their second consecutive contest on the heels of a four-game win streak.