The Seattle Mariners are mired in their longest losing streak of the season. Having Felix Hernandez on the mound against the Oakland Athletics gives them an excellent opportunity to get back into the win column.
Hernandez and the Mariners try to end their seven-game skid Friday night when they continue a four-game series against the Athletics at Safeco Field.
Returning home after a dismal seven-game road swing wasn’t enough to end the losing for the Mariners (54-46), who dropped two in a row at Toronto before getting swept in a four-game series by Texas on the trip.
Nick Swisher homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Athletics (49-53) to a 6-2 victory over Seattle in Thursday’s series opener.
“This is a good club. We are going to win,” Seattle’s Raul Ibanez said. “You don’t win the division in July.”
Richie Sexson homered for Seattle, which hasn’t won since closing to within one game of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels on July 20. The Mariners are now four games out, thanks to their longest losing streak since an 11-game skid from Aug. 10-20.
When asked if his team was fortunate to still be in the race, Seattle manager John McLaren said, “I guess we are. But it’s all about us. We’ve got to get us going.”
Hernandez (6-6, 4.02 ERA) will be asked to play the role of stopper with his team having also dropped four games behind wild card-leading Cleveland.
The young phenom has had an inconsistent season thus far, but his two starts against Oakland have been nothing short of brilliant. Hernandez has held to A’s to five hits in 16 scoreless innings while walking four and striking out 14 in a pair of victories.
He was overpowering in a 4-0 home win over Oakland on opening day, when he gave up three hits in eight innings and struck out 12.
In five career starts versus the A’s, Hernandez is 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA.
The right-hander, though, has lost his last two starts, including an 8-0 defeat to Toronto on Sunday when he gave up six runs and seven hits in six innings.
Swisher had his eighth multi-homer game Thursday, connecting from both sides of the plate for the fourth time. He entered this series in a 4-for-30 slump with one home run in 32 games.
His three-run shot in the ninth inning clanged off the left-field foul pole and sealed Oakland’s third win in four games, all against the top two teams in its division.
“It was hooking. I felt like doing a Carlton Fisk,” Swisher said.
Swisher is one of the many A’s that has struggled against Hernandez, going 2-for-14 (.143) with one home run against the Seattle ace.
Rookie left-hander Dallas Braden (1-5, 5.15) hopes to end his five-game losing streak when he starts for Oakland. The five-game skid is the longest by an A’s pitcher since Joe Kennedy dropped five straight decisions Sept. 1-27, 2005.
Braden pitched well against Baltimore for the second straight start Sunday, but was a tough-luck 2-0 loser. He allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, lowering his ERA against the Orioles to 1.39 in 13 innings. His ERA against the rest of the league, however, is 7.23.
“Getting ahead early was a major factor for me,” Braden said. “I think that anytime someone does well, it gives them a boost of confidence. But I am not worried about myself. I want to be able to help the team do what we want as a collective unit, and that’s win.”
This will be his first appearance against the Mariners.