Blue Jays-Mariners Preview

Felix Hernandez was denied a seventh straight winning decision
his last time out, but the Seattle Mariners ace is still pitching
as well as anyone right now.

The same cannot be said of right-hander Josh Johnson, who could
be pitching for his spot in the rotation Tuesday night when the
Toronto Blue Jays go for their first three-game winning streak in
seven weeks.

Hernandez (11-4, 2.30 ERA) was in line for the victory Thursday
at Boston after throwing seven innings of one-run ball, but the
Mariners’ bullpen surrendered seven runs in the final two frames of
the 8-7 defeat.

“That’s a really tough loss for us because of how Felix was
pitching and we couldn’t get it done,” losing pitcher Oliver Perez
told the Mariners’ official website.

Hernandez, though, continues to get the job done. The AL ERA
leader has given up two total runs in his last four outings and
hasn’t allowed more than two in any of his last seven. Hernandez’s
1.41 ERA during that stretch is second only to New York Yankees
right-hander Hiroki Kuroda’s 1.38.

Hernandez had one of his most dominant starts of the season
against Toronto (52-60), striking out seven in eight innings of a
4-0 road win May 3.

However, he’s 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two career home starts in
this matchup, yielding seven runs each time.

That sounds like Johnson’s most recent outing. The first-year
Blue Jay has a 14.06 ERA in his last four starts after getting
tagged for a season-high 10 hits in 2 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 8-2
road loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

“It’s frustration. That’s it,” Johnson said after losing a
career-worst sixth consecutive start. “I’m out there trying to
battle, trying to get through it and trying to stay positive.
You’ve got to find a way. I’ll come back and watch some video and
do whatever I can to get back.”

Manager John Gibbons is sticking with the former NL ERA leader
for now, saying that Johnson, “works as hard as anybody” and that
“he’s one of those guys you root for,” but general manager Alex
Anthopoulos needs to start seeing positive results.

“We have to look at alternatives at some point if this
continues, it’s really start-to-start at this point, it’s really
the only way to characterize it,” Anthopoulos told the Blue Jays’
official website. “Right now, he’s going to make one more start and
we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each
time.”

Another big night from British Columbia native Brett Lawrie
could help out Johnson in his first start against Seattle. Lawrie,
a homer shy of the cycle in Monday’s 3-1 victory, is batting .414
(12 for 29) while hitting safely in each of the first eight games
on a trip that ends Wednesday.

This three-game set feels more like a home series for the Blue
Jays with plenty of fans making the short trip from Canada to
Safeco Field.

“Obviously, it’s a positive when the whole crowd is cheering for
your team,” Lawrie said. “It’s usually the other team. They picked
us up tonight.”

So did Mark DeRosa, who delivered the go-ahead two-run single in
the eighth inning after Lawrie scored on Jose Reyes’ single.

The Blue Jays, who snapped a three-game skid at Seattle (52-60)
in the opener, last strung together three straight wins during a
franchise record-tying 11-game run June 11-23.