The red-hot Seattle Mariners will send their ace to the mound on Friday when they play the second test of a four-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
Seattle has won nine of its last 10 games and Felix Hernandez hopes to keep his club heading in the right direction tonight.
Hernandez is 11-4 this season with an American League-best earned run average of 2.43. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner has been extremely sharp lately, winning three straight starts and not allowing a single run over his last two outings. In five starts since surrendering six earned runs on June 20 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Hernandez is 3-0 with a sparkling 1.54 ERA.
The man also known as "King Felix" last pitched Sunday in Houston and earned the win by allowing only four hits over six scoreless innings. He also struck out seven Astros and walked one.
Friday's game marks Hernandez's first outing against the Twins this season. Despite posting a career 2.17 ERA versus Minnesota, he is just 6-5 over 14 starts in this matchup.
The Mariners had an eight-game winning streak halted by Cleveland on Wednesday, but rebounded with an 8-2 victory in Thursday's opener against the Twins.
Hisashi Iwakuma tossed six shutouts innings as Seattle cruised to the victory at Safeco Field, where the Mariners have won six of their last seven. Iwakuma (10-4) scattered four hits and a walk while fanning nine to pick up his third straight win.
Nick Franklin hit a three-run homer and Dustin Ackley had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and two RBI for the Mariners, who have gone 6-1 since the All-Star break.
"He did a great job throughout the entire game," Franklin said of Iwakuma. "I think if we could just start making the defensive plays we can get out of innings earlier."
Despite the recent hot stretch, the 49-53 Mariners are still 10 games behind Oakland for first place in the AL West.
The Twins, who are 12 games out of first in the AL Central, have lost two in a row and three of their last five games.
Minnesota was shut out through eight innings on Thursday, but Chris Herrmann and Doug Bernier each had an RBI double in the ninth inning.
Twins starter Kevin Correia (7-7) was tagged for six runs on seven hits over just 1 2/3 innings to absorb the loss.
"This is obviously my worst start of the year. A couple balls got through the hole and I made a few bad pitches after that. They just hammered them," said Correia.
Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer is on the paternity list and has missed the last three games. He has been out since being a late scratch from Tuesday's contest against the Angels after his wife went into labor with the couple's twin daughters.
Mauer is eligible to remain on the paternity list for three days, meaning the latest he could return to the club without going on the restricted list is Saturday and it is unknown when he will rejoin the Twins.
The Twins will send Scott Diamond to the hill against Hernandez, as the lefty aims for his first win in over a month.
Diamond is 5-9 with a 5.53 ERA in 2013 and hasn't picked up a victory since beating the Chicago White Sox on June 20. Over his last five trips to the mound, Diamond is 0-3 with a 6.28 ERA. Diamond was slammed for six runs -- five earned -- in just 4 2/3 innings of action in his last start, a 7-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
However, one of Diamond's five wins this season did come against the Mariners, who he beat on June 2 with six scoreless innings. He is 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in three career starts against Seattle.
Seattle and the Twins have split four meetings this season, but the Mariners have won 10 of the last 14 games in this series.