Seattle's Iwakuma has tough act to follow versus Twins

Hisashi Iwakuma was pretty solid his last time out. However, he has a long way to go if he plans on matching Feliz Hernandez's scintillating performance from Wednesday.

On Friday, the Mariners take the field for the first time since Hernandez tossed the first perfect game in franchise history, as they begin a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field.

Hernandez was magnificent on Wednesday, tossing the 23rd perfect game in big league history and the second at Safeco Field this season, as the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0.

It was the also third perfecto this year, an all-time high for one season. Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw one in Seattle on April 21 and Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants shut down the Houston Astros on June 13.

"When Phil (Humber) threw his perfect game here I said 'I have to throw one,'" Hernandez said. "I've been working to throw one and here it is."

The 26-year-old Hernandez struck out 12, including five of the final six batters he faced to help the Mariners win for the fourth time in five tries.

"His stuff, it's electric and he had it today," Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said. "He's a very good pitcher, and before the end of his career, he's definitely going to go down in the history books."

It was also the third no-hitter thrown in Seattle this season, as six Seattle pitchers combined for a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 8. It was also the fourth no-hitter in Mariners history.

Iwakuma won for the second time in three starts on Saturday in Anaheim, as he held the Angels to three runs and six hits in seven innings to run his record to 3-3, while lowering his ERA to 4.16.

In seven starts since moving out of Seattle's bullpen, Iwakuma has gone 2-2 with a 3.73 ERA.

"He's been throwing the ball well," manager Eric Wedge said. "I thought he was really, really good again. He was more aggressive, more efficient, did a better job early in the count, got some quick outs. He had a really good splitter, nice location and had something on the end of his fastball, too."

Minnesota, meanwhile, will counter with righty Nick Blackburn, who has lost his last four decisions and is 4-8 with a 7.33 ERA. Blackburn's latest loss came on Saturday against Tampa Bay, as he allowed four runs and 11 hits in six innings.

"I feel like any time I leave a ball up, or any time a ball catches plate, it's just crushed," Blackburn said. "I don't know if there's zero deception there, I don't know if my stuff at times is just incredibly ineffective. It's just been such a mystery year for me. It's been frustrating."

Blackburn lost to the Mariners the last time he faced them and is 3-2 in eight starts against them with a 3.44 ERA.

The Twins come into tonight's set having dropped six of seven after losing 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Cole De Vries (2-4) surrendered four runs on eight hits and two walks over four-plus innings of work to take the loss, while Joe Mauer knocked in the lone run for the Twins.

Seattle took two of three from the Twins earlier in the year.