Rested and relaxed, Felix Hernandez has a chance to beat the Oakland Athletics for the second time in as many starts.
Whether Nelson Cruz will be on the field with him remains to be seen.
As Hernandez takes the ball for the first time since beating the A’s more than a week ago, it’s uncertain if the ailing Cruz will be available to help the Seattle Mariners try for a fourth straight win Saturday night.
After giving up 14 runs and 21 hits over 8 1-3 innings in his previous two outings, Hernandez (15-8, 3.66 ERA) allowed homers to Billy Burns and Brett Lawrie along with one other hit in eight innings of an 8-2 home win over Oakland on Aug. 26.
"I found some things with my mechanics and I felt way better," the right-hander said.
With his ace in position to log at least 200 innings for an eighth consecutive season, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon opted to have Hernandez skip his next scheduled start.
"I did the same thing last year to freshen my pitchers up and Felix had (one of the best Septembers of his career)," McClendon told MLB’s official website. "Everybody thought I was nuts when I did, and I’ll do it again because it’s the right thing to do."
Hernandez, who went 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA in six September starts in 2014, has a 2.45 ERA while winning two of his last three against Oakland (58-77) this year.
Cruz has hit five of his 39 home runs off A’s pitching, but a quad strain forced him to sit out Friday’s 11-8 victory. While the injury doesn’t appear serious, the slugger is taking a wait-and-see approach.
"(On Saturday) I’ll probably hit (in batting practice)," said Cruz, who is 4 for 29 without a homer in the seven he’s played on Seattle’s 10-game trip.
"I’ll just go out there and see how it feels."
Cruz might want to get back in the lineup considering he’s 6 for 13 with a double and three home runs against Jesse Chavez (5-5, 2.85). The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA as a starter against the Mariners this season, but he’s allowed three runs on two homers over 15 innings to win his last two home starts.
He yielded an earned run over five innings and a homer in his seventh straight start during Sunday’s 7-4, 11-inning victory at Arizona.
Winners in seven of 10, the Mariners (64-71) have gone deep 21 times while doing so in 12 straight contests.
"I’ve said that all along, that they were going to hit," McClendon said.
Kyle Seager is 3 for 17 with a home run against Chavez, but 15 for 30 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the last seven games.
Lawrie is batting .414 in the last seven home contests.
"He’s getting some really good swings," said manager Bob Melvin, whose A’s have dropped three straight and five of seven in Oakland.
Lawrie went 3 for 26 in his first seven games against the Mariners this season but is batting .520 in his last seven. He’s a career .368 hitter against Hernandez.