With their seven-game slide now behind them, the Seattle Mariners shoot for their second straight win this afternoon when they tangle with the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field.
Seattle, already seven games out of contention in the American League West, notched a 7-0 win last night over the visitors, just the second shutout of the campaign for the club as the Mariners held Minnesota to just one hit, a single by leadoff batter Denard Spann.
Getting the job done yet again on the hill for the Mariners was Felix Hernandez who pitched eight shutout innings, walking two and striking out nine for his third win of the season.
"He was just nasty," Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer said of Hernandez, the 2010 Cy Young winner. "He was hitting his spots and had a lot of movement on his pitches."
Offensively the hosts got a lift from Kyle Seager who had two hits, one of those being his fourth home run of 2012, as he logged four RBI. Ichiro Suzuki, now batting .303, added two hits, two walks, two RBI and a couple of runs scored as well.
Mauer, who entered the game hitting .500 against Hernandez, came up empty in his four at-bats. In the last four outings Minnesota hitters have delivered a total of just nine hits in 116 at-bats, making it easy to see why the group has dropped 10 of the last 12 contests and is suffering with the fewest wins (seven) of any team in the majors.
Twins starter Jason Marquis made it through six innings, giving up just two runs on four hits, but he also issued six walks which helped to precipitate his exit. Reliever Anthony Swarzak was touched for three runs on one hit and a pair of walks as the game again got away from Minnesota.
Still searching for his first win of the 2012 campaign, Nick Blackburn gets the call to the hill for the Twins this afternoon. Now in his sixth season in the majors, Blackburn has yet to post a winning record in any single campaign and is 39-49 overall since 2007.
The Oklahoma native last pitched on Monday against the Angels, giving up three earned runs on seven hits, striking out only two, in six innings of action as the Twins bowed by a score of 4-3. The 30-year old has surrendered a total of 15 runs in 20 1/3 innings thus far, stemming from 27 hits.
For his career, Blackburn has a mark of 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA versus Seattle.
As for the Mariners, their plan is to give the ball to Hector Noesi who himself has had a difficult season thus far with just one win in four decisions. The right-hander is dealing with a hefty 7.83 ERA, although that is slightly lower than this time last week thanks to his outing versus Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Against the Rays, Noesi, who broke in with the Yankees before being dealt to the Pacific Northwest during the offseason, surrendered just three runs on three hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings, but still he was saddled with the loss in the 3-1 setback.
Noesi has had very little experience previously versus the Twins, throwing just a single inning in relief while with New York, walking one batter and striking out a pair.
Minnesota's pitching efforts have been absolutely dismal thus far in 2012, the team ranked last in the majors in ERA (5.69), quality starts (seven) and second-to-last in batting average against (.290). It also hasn't helped that the club is 13th in the AL in runs scored (90) and has by far the fewest home runs in the league with just 14.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Justin Morneau's sore left wrist has him heading to the 15-day disabled list.