Felix Hernandez is starting to resemble the pitcher who won an American League Cy Young Award in 2010. He shoots for a third straight quality start this evening when the Seattle Mariners open a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field.
Hernandez has struggled at times this season, but has looked like his dominant self his last two times out. After giving up a run in seven innings of a no- decision on June 17, Hernandez beat the San Diego Padres on Saturday, limiting them to just a run and six hits in seven frames, while striking out 10.
"I think Felix understands where he's at," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "I know he wants to be better and should be better, and he will be. I think the last two outings have been better. He's not to where he's totally locked in yet, but he's definitely on his way to approaching that."
Hernandez has had success against the Red Sox, posting a 5-2 mark to go along with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts.
Seattle could use a big start from its ace after dropping two of three to the Oakland Athletics, including a 2-1 loss on Wednesday. John Jaso provided the only offense with a home run for the Mariners, who have dropped three of their last four games.
Kevin Millwood got the start for the M's and allowed one run on one hit before being pulled with a groin injury in the third inning. Hisashi Iwakuma (1-1) took over and allowed one run on one hit with two walks and three strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings to take the loss.
Boston, meanwhile, enters this series playing, perhaps, its best baseball of the season. The Red Sox won for the ninth time in 11 tries on Wednesday, as Adrian Gonzalez had three RBI and Boston rode a six-run first inning in a 10-4 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mike Aviles went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI while David Ortiz homered and walked three times for the Red Sox, who are a season-best five games over .500 (40-35).
Jon Lester (5-5) got the win, allowing four runs on seven hits over seven innings. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.
"He hasn't been getting runs," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "We got him runs right off the bat and he did the rest. He threw the ball very well today."
Getting the call for the Red Sox tonight will be lefty Franklin Morales, who has been impressive in his two starts filling in for the injured Josh Beckett. Morales beat the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, holding them to two earned runs in six innings to even his record at 1-1 to go along with a 3.12 ERA.
"I feel really confident in myself," said Morales, who's struck out 17 over 11 innings in his starts. "I think it's good for me to be starting."
This will be his first-ever start against the Mariners, but has faced them three times out of the bullpen and has surrendered three runs in two innings of those outings.
Boston swept a two-game set from the Mariners earlier in the year at Fenway Park, outscoring them 11-1.