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.