Hernandez takes impressive run into opener vs. Jays

( - Felix Hernandez looks to extend his historic streak on Monday when the Seattle Mariners open a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field.

Hernandez, of course, has made an MLB-record 15 straight starts of seven innings or more while allowing two or fewer runs. He is in the midst of the best season of his remarkable career, as both his 1.97 ERA and 0.88 WHIP are both tops in the majors, while his 5.81 K/BB ratio is the best in his career.

The remarkable right-hander improved to 12-3 on Tuesday with a win over Atlanta, as he allowed a run and four hits and struck out eight over eight innings. He only threw 97 pitches, but manager Lloyd McClendon pulled him in the ninth.

"It was my decision and I'll continue to do that, I'll continue to protect my pitchers," McClendon said. "I'm trying to play meaningful games in September, not have a pitcher throw a complete game in the first week of August. My objective is to try to get this team as far as I can and hopefully that's the playoffs. We have our eyes set on it, I don't know if we can get there or not, but I want Felix healthy, strong and moving forward in September."

Hernandez's impressive streak could be in jeopardy on Monday, as the Blue Jays have seemingly had their way with the former American League Cy Young Award winner. He has faced the Blue Jays 11 times and is 4-5 against them with a 4.95 ERA, his worst against any team. Also, his 1.37 WHIP against the Jays is his third-worst mark.

Seattle is just 1 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot in the American League, thanks in part to wins in five of its last six games. Toronto is also 1 1/2 games back in the wild card race, but enter Monday's opener on the heels of its longest game ever played.

Jose Bautista's RBI single in the 19th inning carried the Blue Jays to a 6-5 win, ending a six-hour, 37-minute marathon -- the longest in time and innings in Blue Jays history.

."A win is a win. We'll take it any way we can," Bautista said. "The only thing that matters is the result."

On Monday the Jays will turn to righty Drew Hutchison, who had one of the best starts of his young career his last time out. Hutchison beat the Baltimore Orioles, allowing only a Chris Davis solo home run, and struck out eight in 8 2/3 innings to improve to 8-9, while lowering his ERA to 4.39.

"He's still a young kid. He's not physically where he's going to be," manager John Gibbons said. "He's coming off the Tommy John ...I know during the [Trade] Deadline, he's a guy some teams wanted, but I think he is a part of the bright future here."

Toronto split six matchups with the Mariners last season.