The Toronto Blue Jays own baseball's highest-scoring offense in four years, but they figure to be in for a challenge against one of the game's elite pitchers.
Felix Hernandez looks to get the better of Toronto for the second time this season Friday night when he takes the mound for the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
The Blue Jays (49-48) are three games behind Minnesota for the AL's second wild-card spot and have won three of four following Thursday's 5-2 victory at Oakland. Russell Martin homered and finished 7 for 11 with two home runs in the three-game series.
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In his 10th season, Martin's .822 OPS is the third-highest of his career.
"I kind of backed off the plate and when I get off the plate it kind of gets me locked into staying on the ball better," he told MLB's official website.
Toronto's 5.3 runs per game would be the highest average for a full season since 2011.
Hernandez (11-5, 2.77 ERA) held the Blue Jays in check May 22, yielding one run over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a 4-3 win. He's been wildly inconsistent throughout his career against Toronto, though, particularly since 2009, going 4-5 with a 5.26 ERA in 10 matchups. He has three quality starts in the last five but gave up 10 earned runs over 9 2-3 innings in the other two.
The right-hander owns a 1.55 ERA without giving up a home run over six starts since being hammered for eight runs in one-third of an inning at Houston on June 12. He limited the New York Yankees to one run over six innings Sunday but didn't record a decision in a 2-1 defeat.
"I'm not happy, because we lost," he said. "But everything was working pretty good today."
Despite his dominance over his last six starts, he's gone 2-2 while receiving nine runs of support in 40 2-3 innings. Hernandez's 3.21 run-support average is his lowest since a 3.10 mark in 2010.
Run support hasn't been an issue for Toronto's Drew Hutchison (9-2, 5.19), whose 7.88 average is the majors' highest. The Blue Jays have backed him with an average of 9.77 runs on the road, though he's 2-1 with an 8.81 ERA in those 10 outings.
The right-hander lost his only previous matchup with Seattle, giving up six runs over 5 2-3 innings in an 11-1 road defeat Aug. 11.
Hutchison is expected to get the ball after being scratched from Thursday's start due to a bout with the flu.
"He came in and played catch," manager John Gibbons said. "He's feeling much better so hopefully he'll be good to go. If not, definitely Saturday he should be good."
If Hutchison can't pitch, Gibbons will start right-hander Marco Estrada (7-5, 3.22), who is 3-2 with a 1.67 ERA in his last six games.
The Mariners (44-52) split a four-game series in Detroit after they won 3-2 in 12 innings Thursday on Mike Zunino's double.
Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes is expected to play after leaving in the eighth inning Thursday after being hit in the face by a bouncing ball while covering second for a tag attempt. Reyes is 4 for 8 with a homer off Hernandez.