The Seattle Mariners are on the verge of their first road sweep of Texas in more than 13 years, and Felix Hernandez figures to be a good bet to end his personal drought in Arlington against the feeble Rangers lineup on Wednesday night.
Seattle (9-11) won 2-1 Tuesday, led by Nelson Cruz’s 3-for-4 night against his former team. Cruz improved to 25 for 64 (.391) over his last 16 games, while Texas’ offense continued to struggle.
The Rangers (7-13) have lost five of six while going 4 for 38 with runners in scoring position, scoring two runs or fewer in four of five. They haven’t been swept at home by Seattle in a series of at least three games since a four-game set April 12-15, 2002.
”It’s a long season. … This obviously isn’t the April we set out to have,” first-year manager Jeff Banister said. ”These guys aren’t pressing. They are out there battling. They are still energetic.”
Hernandez (3-0, 1.61 ERA) has a chance to win four games in April for only the second time, accomplishing the feat only in 2009. He already has 32 strikeouts in 28 innings despite fanning only one batter in his second outing.
He yielded five hits Friday while striking out nine and walking none in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota to record his first shutout since 2012. Hernandez’s 74 starts between complete games marked the longest stretch of his career.
"It’s been a while so it feels really good," he said.
Hernandez raised some concerns when he limped off the mound after jumping to field choppers in the second and seventh innings, possibly straining the quadriceps muscle that has given him problems this year.
"I’m fine," he told MLB’s official website. "I’m getting better. I’ll be fine."
The right-hander has more experience against the Rangers than any other team, and they’re also responsible for more of his losses than any other opponent – he’s 13-21 with a 3.95 ERA in 43 career matchups. Hernandez gave up one run and two hits with 12 strikeouts over seven innings in a 3-1 home victory on April 18, but his last win at Texas came Sept. 28, 2010. In five outings there since, he is 0-3 with a 4.60 ERA.
Wandy Rodriguez gets the nod for the Rangers after limiting the Los Angeles Angels to one run over five innings in Texas’ 3-2 road loss on Friday, his first big league start since May 21. Now he seeks his first win since May 26, 2013.
"It was a veteran outing by a guy that hadn’t been on a major league mound in more than nine months," Banister said of Rodriguez’s AL debut. "Wandy gave us five innings and pitched through traffic for most of the night, but he moved the fastball around and competed very well."
The southpaw won his only matchup with Seattle while opposite Hernandez, giving up one run over 7 2-3 innings in a 5-1 victory with Houston on June 15, 2007.
Texas’ Mitch Moreland is slated for surgery Wednesday to remove bone chips from his elbow and is likely to miss a few weeks. Adam Rosales was 0 for 4 while starting at first base.
Mired in an 0-for-20 slump, Shin-soo Choo was held of Tuesday’s lineup. He is hitting a major league-worst .096 this season and is 9 for 36 with 13 strikeouts against Hernandez.
"I still believe in who I am," said Choo, two years removed from a 21-homer, 20-stolen base season. "That’s the tough part. I’m not doing well. … I can get through it."