Twins-Mariners Preview

Felix Hernandez’s perfect game capped an impressive run through

the rotation for the Seattle Mariners. They might be on the verge

of another one with the Minnesota Twins coming to town.

Seattle seeks a fifth victory in six games as it hosts the

struggling Twins in the opener of a three-game series Friday

night.

The superstar known as King Felix tossed the franchise’s first

perfect game and the 23rd in major league history Wednesday,

striking out 12 while dominating Tampa Bay in a 1-0 victory.

It marked the second perfect game at Safeco Field this season

after Chicago’s Phil Humber retired all 27 batters April 21.

“For every pitcher, I think it’s in their mind,” Hernandez said.

“Today it happened and it’s something special. I don’t have any

words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. It doesn’t happen

every day.”

His memorable day marked the fourth win in five games for the

Mariners (55-64), a stretch during which Seattle’s starting

pitchers have a 2.41 ERA with three walks and 33 strikeouts in 37

1-3 innings.

Hisahi Iwakuma (3-3, 4.16 ERA) kicked off that run and now faces

Minnesota for the first time. Seattle starters are 4-0 with a 1.83

ERA in the last seven meetings, having allowed two runs in 21 2-3

innings when the Twins visited Safeco Field from May 4-6.

The Mariners won two of three in that series and enter this one

having won nine of 10 home games, with the rotation posting a 1.98

ERA.

Iwakuma has allowed one run in each of his last two home starts

and is 2-2 with a 3.73 ERA in seven outings overall since entering

the rotation July 2. He beat the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday,

giving up three runs in seven innings of a 7-4 win.

“I thought he was really, really good again,” manager Eric Wedge

told the team’s official website. “He had a really good splitter,

nice location and had something on the end of his fastball,

too.”

Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn hasn’t been nearly as good

lately.

Blackburn (4-8, 7.33) goes into his start Friday with an 0-4

record and 7.15 ERA in seven starts since beating Cincinnati on

June 22. He gave up four runs and a season-worst 11 hits in six

innings of a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

The right-hander served up three homers in that defeat and has

allowed 12 in his last 44 innings.

“I don’t know if there’s zero deception there, I don’t know if

my stuff at times is just incredibly ineffective,” Blackburn told

the team’s official website. “It’s just been such a mystery year

for me. It’s been frustrating.”

Blackburn allowed five runs in six innings of a 5-2 loss at

Seattle on May 6. He had been 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in seven previous

starts against the Mariners.

The Twins have lost six of seven after falling to Detroit 5-1 on

Wednesday. Joe Mauer singled home the only run for Minnesota, which

failed to record more than seven hits for the fourth time in five

games.

Center fielder Denard Span, who has missed three straight games

with a sore right shoulder, is expected to return at some point in

the series.