Angels-Mariners Preview

Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has an ERA under 1.00 in his last nine starts against the Los Angeles Angels.

Garrett Richards can say the same about his ERA in his last five outings versus the Mariners.

A premier pitching duel between Hernandez and Richards is on tap for Thursday night’s opener of a four-game series at Safeco Field.

Hernandez (10-5, 3.02 ERA) is 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last nine outings against Los Angeles, with the Mariners (39-46) winning the first eight of that stretch. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts versus the Angels this year, with Albert Pujols 2 for 8 against him and Mike Trout 1 for 7 with a homer.

Trout batted .367 against Hernandez before this season while Pujols is 10 for 45 with 12 strikeouts overall in this matchup.

Three Los Angeles regulars are hitless against "King Felix" this year. Kole Calhoun is 0 for 8 and David Freese and Chris Iannetta are each 0 for 6.

The Angels were ecstatic after ending their eight-game slide when facing Hernandez in a 3-2, 10-inning win June 28. He struck out eight in six scoreless innings.

"He’s got some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen," Calhoun said. "So anytime you can win a game that Felix starts, it’s a good day."

Since becoming the AL’s first 10-game winner June 17, Hernandez is 0-2 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts. The right-hander allowed two runs and a season-high 10 hits over seven innings in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Oakland.

He’ll up against a formidable opponent in Richards (9-5, 3.35), who is 3-0 with a 0.97 ERA in his last five outings against Seattle, including 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two this year. Logan Morrison is 3 for 6 against Richards this year while teammates Seth Smith, Brad Miller, Nelson Cruz and Dustin Ackley all have career averages of .214 or worse in this matchup.

Richards has thrown 14 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings at Seattle. He improved to 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his last five outings after allowing one run over 7 2-3 innings in Friday’s 8-2 victory at Texas.

Los Angeles seeks a season-high sixth straight win after sweeps in Texas and Colorado. Trout homered twice in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over the Rockies and Erick Aybar continued his torrid hitting by going 2 for 4.

”It’s one of those nights,” Trout said. ”I got some pitches to hit and barreled them up.”

Aybar, a .220 hitter versus Hernandez, is 11 for 21 with four doubles in this win streak during which the Angels have averaged 9.2 runs and gone 25 for 56 (.446) with runners in scoring position.

Seattle, meanwhile, is batting a major league-low .205 with runners in scoring position this season after going 0 for 14 in Wednesday’s 5-4 home loss to Detroit.

”You certainly would like to be more efficient in those spots,” said Trent Jewett, filling in as Mariners manager with Lloyd McClendon away from the team to attend his sister’s funeral. ”We obviously had plenty of opportunities to push a lot more across.”

McClendon is expected to rejoin the team for this series.

Center fielder Austin Jackson, who is 1 for 13 against Richards, left with back spasms and is unlikely to play Thursday.

Aybar is hitting a team-best .385 in the season series with the Angels winning six of nine matchups.