Felix Hernandez looks to continue his recent run of success when the Seattle Mariners face the Kansas City Royals this afternoon. Seattle with a win can take 3 of the 4 games and at least feel good about themselves for the time being away from Safeco Field. Hernandez (7-5, 2.92 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in six starts since losing to San Diego on June 12. He's allowed one run or none in five of those outings, and has yielded one over 16 2-3 innings while striking out 18 in the last two. The 2010 AL Cy Young award winner tossed a three-hitter and struck out 12 on Saturday for his second complete-game shutout in four starts, a 7-0 win over Texas.
Though Hernandez has looked dominant of late, he's posted a 3.71 ERA while losing three straight starts at Kansas City. Seattle (39-54) has totaled 25 runs and 39 hits while winning two of the first three in this set but fell short in an 8-7 loss to the Royals on Wednesday. Seager and Casper Wells each homered and drove in two runs as the Mariners overcame a four-run deficit, only to watch Billy Butler hit a walk-off homer to help Kansas City (39-51) snap a three-game skid and win for the fourth time in 16 games.
Butler, who is 5 for 11 with two homers and four RBIs in the series, is hitting .400 (16 for 40) over his last 10 games overall. Wells has batted .327 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his last 12 games after going 2 for 23 in his previous seven contests. The Royals will recall starter Will Smith (1-2 9.00) to start Thursday's game against Seattle after optioning Ryan Verdugo to the minors Wednesday. The rest of the Kansas City starters will just push back one day each, reports the Kansas City Star. Luke Hochevar will now start Friday against Minnesota with Luis Mendoza Saturday and Everett Teaford Sunday against the Twins. Smith has pitched jsut 14 innings this season giving up as many earned runs covering those starts.
We get a relatively fair price given the fact that both teams are enjoying sustained and similar success so far this series. The Mariners only half the time get favorable advantages away from Safeco in distance and area that only make their offense more efficient. Before the ASB they were hitting just .228 as a team and that mark has since risen to .233 especially with the impact of this series. Justin Smoak (.198 13 38) is still struggling to hit his weight despite leadign the team in round trippers. Kyle Seagler (.244 11 58) leads the M's in RBI's and two baggers providing a big lift to the middle of the lineup. Same goes true for Michael Saunders (.257 9 30) who has gotten a good chunk of playing time in the outfield. Former Yankee Jesus Montero (.255 8 32) has found the transition difficult moving from the short porch at the Stadium to pitcher friendly dimensions at Safeco, and his numbers show immediate impact. Ichiro Suzuki (.264 4 28) has been on the downside of his illustrious career for several seasons now. With this being just Smith's 4th official start, he may have to stave off the butterflies even against a weaker hitting Seattle who has shown rejuvenation this week at the plate. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez will endure a bit of a tougher test against KC, who despite their ineffective pitching still hit .269 collectively. With Butler (.300 18 56) on his way to an All Star season, Mike Moustakas (.271 16 49) has also won a few games with some key hits that have at the very least kept the Royals out of the AL Central basement to date. Alcides Escobar (.309 4 28) does not hit much for power but leads KC in batting built on consistency and efficiency at the top of the lineup. Eric Hosmer (.222 9 40) and Jeff Francoeur (.250 8 27) can hopefully use the second half to turn around otherwise disappointing 2012 campaigns. Best of luck however you play!