Mariners-Angels Preview

Though he’s not headed to the All-Star game at this time, Dan

Haren is closing the first half of the season as if he belongs.

Haren will try to win his fourth straight start and give the

surging Los Angeles Angels a four-game sweep of Seattle on Sunday

when they face All-Star Felix Hernandez, who’s struggled against

the Mariners’ AL West rivals.

Haren (9-5, 2.65 ERA) has allowed three runs in his last three

games, and none in his last two. After holding Washington to two

hits in 7 1-3 innings on June 29, the right-hander fired a

two-hitter with nine strikeouts for his 100th career win, 1-0 over

All-Star Justin Verlander and Detroit on Tuesday.

“He’s been phenomenal,” second baseman Howie Kendrick said of

Haren. “We haven’t always given him run support, but he’s always

keeping us in it. I love playing defense behind him.”

Haren has the third-lowest run support average in the majors at

2.58 per game.

He’s 5-3 in eight starts since he didn’t receive a decision

against the Mariners on May 19, when he yielded a run, three hits

and a season-high four walks in the Angels’ 2-1 loss at Safeco

Field. Since joining Los Angeles (49-42) in a trade with Arizona

last July 25, Haren is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts against

the Mariners.

Ichiro Suzuki, who’s 15 for 54 (.277) against Haren, is a career

.310 hitter in Anaheim after getting two hits Saturday. The

Mariners’ icon is not headed to the Midsummer Classic for the first

time in his 11-year career.

Hernandez (8-7, 3.22) is slated to make his second All-Star

appearance, but first hopes to end his woes against Los Angeles.

The right-hander is 0-3 in six starts versus the Angels since

beating them on Sept. 2, 2009.

It’s been far longer since the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner

left Anaheim with a win. Hernandez is 0-4 in nine starts since

tossing a four-hitter in his debut there on June 11, 2006.

He pitched eight solid innings Tuesday at Oakland, but failed to

get a decision. Hernandez fanned 10 – the fifth time he’s reached

double digits this year – while giving up a run and four hits in

the Mariners’ 4-2 victory in 10 innings.

“Felix was as good as we’ve seen him all year long tonight, and

that’s saying a lot,” manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners’

official website.

With 134 strikeouts, Hernandez is four behind Verlander for the

AL lead. Verlander is scheduled to face Kansas City earlier

Sunday.

Los Angeles, which has won 13 of 16 overall, is in position for

its first four-game sweep of Seattle (43-47) since Sept. 11-14,

2008, after a 9-3 victory Saturday. Torii Hunter homered twice

among three hits and drove in a season-high five.

The Angels have gone deep 15 times heading into the finale of

this 13-game homestand. They had homered 14 times in the first 35

games at Angel Stadium in 2011.

”I’m happy about the way we’re playing. It’s like all cylinders

are clicking,” Hunter said. ”This is the team I thought we should

have been. … Sometimes you’ve got to ride the wave until it’s

done, or ride the bike until the wheels fall off.”

The Angels, winners of 15 of 17 at home against the Mariners,

are one game behind Texas for the division lead.

Kendrick, who extended his hitting streak to 18 games Saturday,

is just 7 for 33 (.212) with six strikeouts against Hernandez.