Coming off one of the most dominant performances of his career, the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez is on quite a roll.
While he hasn’t had much success against the Texas Rangers, Hernandez may be able to break through in Friday night’s series opener at Safeco Field.
Hernandez (8-1, 2.39 ERA) has gone 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA over a six-start stretch while striking out 53 and walking five over 45 1-3 innings. The former AL Cy Young Award winner struck out a career-high 15 over seven innings of four-hit ball in Sunday’s 5-0 win at Tampa Bay, becoming the first pitcher since Jake Peavy in 2007 to record at least 15 strikeouts without receiving a decision.
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"Everything (was working)," he told MLB’s official website. "I was throwing a lot of strikes. My changeup was unbelievable and the slider was really good, too. I was getting ahead early and that was it. It’s fun when you’ve got all that stuff. It’s fun to go out there and just throw every pitch and know it’s going to be for strikes."
Hernandez has also gone without a decision in two starts against Texas this season despite a 2.77 ERA. The right-hander, 0-4 with a 6.02 ERA in seven outings against the Rangers since last year, is 12-20 with a 4.11 ERA in the series for his most losses against any team.
The Rangers (32-34) avoided a season-worst fifth consecutive defeat with a 6-0 victory over Miami on Wednesday. Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 4 with a season-high four RBIs and Yu Darvish recorded his first career complete game.
Despite the victory, fourth-place Texas is eight games behind Oakland for the AL West lead. The Rangers’ 44 homers are third-fewest in baseball, and they have a major league-leading 14 players on the DL.
"At some point, we’ve got to start getting blessed by the baseball gods," manager Ron Washington said. "But we have to make that happen. … You’ve got to pull yourself out of your misery."
Texas gives the ball to Nick Tepesch (2-2, 4.91), who has posted a 9.82 ERA in losing back-to-back starts. The right-hander yielded four runs, eight hits and a career worst-tying four walks over 5 1-3 innings in Saturday’s 8-3 defeat to Cleveland.
Tepesch gave up three runs over 6 1-3 innings to beat the Mariners 4-3 on May 21, improving to 1-1 with a 4.19 ERA in four starts in the series. This marks his first appearance opposite Hernandez.
"I don’t really look at who I’m pitching against. I’m pitching against the Mariners, I’m not pitching against Felix Hernandez, in a sense," he said. "I’m facing their hitters. I don’t have to face Felix. He’s got to do his thing, and I’ve got to do my thing."
Kyle Seager is 5 for 10 with three doubles against Tepesch, and Robinson Cano is 2 for 3 with a homer and a double.
Seattle (34-32) had won eight of nine before getting swept by the New York Yankees. The Mariners were limited to seven runs in the three games, falling 6-3 in Thursday’s finale.
Seager is mired in a 4-for-37 slump, and Mike Zunino is 2 for his last 18 with 10 strikeouts.
The Mariners recalled former top prospect Jesus Montero on Thursday for his first major league stint since a 50-game suspension for his role in baseball’s Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug investigation. He was hitting .270 with eight homers, 15 doubles and 40 RBIs in 59 games at Triple-A Tacoma.