Angels try to avoid sweep at hands of Mariners

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners on Sunday afternoon as the teams close out the first half of the 2013 season.

On Saturday night, Felix Hernandez proved why he's one of best pitchers in the game and why he's once again an All-Star as he led the Mariners to a 6-0 victory.

Hernandez (10-4) pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing seven hits while walking none to give him double-digit wins before the All-Star break for the first time in his young career.

Justin Smoak was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI. Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders all collected two hits apiece as well, with Ibanez driving home his 55th run of the season.

Jered Weaver (3-5) was far from his best for the Angels, exiting after 5 2/3 innings having allowed nine hits and four earned runs.

Los Angeles was shut out for already the seventh time this season. Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo had two hits each in the setback, while Mike Trout added his eighth triple of the year.

The Angels on Sunday will send to the hill a struggling Joe Blanton, who is hoping to improve upon a dreadful campaign (2-11, 5.40 ERA).

Blanton actually showed marked improvements in June, sporting a 3.44 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 34 innings, but he has fallen back on hard times in two July outings, allowing 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings, including a July 9 loss to Chicago (5 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 6 ER).

Despite his sub par season, Blanton has actually pitched well against the Mariners, posting a 3.55 ERA while striking out 16 in 12 2/3 innings, although he's just 0-1 to show for it.

Seattle will counter with Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been spectacular in his second season with a 7-4 record and a 2.97 ERA. His efforts earned him a spot on the American League All-Star roster, but since he's pitching the final Sunday of the first half, he will not participate in Tuesday's Mid-Summer Classic.

Even though Iwakuma boasts some gaudy numbers at this point in the season, including an AL-leading 0.92 WHIP, he's pitched poorly in recent weeks. The right-hander has gone winless in five straight starts, allowing four earned runs or more in each outing. His worst performance of the season came on July 9 in an 11-8 loss to Boston, where he surrendered eight hits and six earned runs in just three innings of work.

"I think my pitches are catching too much of the plate the last couple of starts," Iwakuma said through a translator. "I need to work on that. We have some time to make adjustments and that's what I need to do."

In 12 matchups against one another so far this year, the Angels and Mariners have split the contests six games apiece.