Hernandez, taking the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks a day earlier than expected, looks to continue his dominance of the Rockies this season as the NL West rivals open a three-game series Friday night.
Hernandez (9-9, 4.86 ERA) will pitch for Arizona (75-60) on three days’ rest so the club will need to use a fifth starter only two or three more times for the rest of the regular season. He pitched on short rest five times in his career, posting a 5.23 ERA en route to losing four of those starts.
The veteran right-hander, though, hasn’t been hesitant about the switch.
“I like it and I can do it,” Hernandez told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site. “In this position, when you have a chance of helping the team, you do it.”
Hernandez has been outstanding in four outings against Colorado this season, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He is 7-8 with a 4.57 ERA in 23 career starts against the Rockies.
In his last start, Hernandez allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to San Diego on Monday night.
Hernandez will try to set the tone for Arizona in a key NL West series. The Diamondbacks took back sole possession of first place Thursday night, salvaging the finale of a four-game set with San Diego 8-7 to take a one-game lead over the Padres.
Colorado trails Arizona by six games and believes it is clearly in the chase for the NL West crown going into the final month.
“We still think we’re in it,” Rockies reliever Matt Herges said. “It’s feasible.”
Colorado, which has won four of six after losing four of five, is five games behind San Diego for the wild card. The Rockies avoided being swept in a three-game series with San Francisco, winning the finale 8-0 on Wednesday.
After being held to one run in each of that series’ first two games, Colorado got two homers from Garrett Atkins and Kaz Matsui went 4-for-4 with two doubles to lead the lineup.
With his four-hit day, Matsui is 13 for his last 29 (.448) and 10-for-25 (.400) in six games against Arizona this season. Atkins, meanwhile, has struggled in 10 games against the Diamondbacks this year, batting .175 (7-for-40).
The Rockies haven’t needed many runs over the last six games, with their pitchers posting a 2.77 ERA during that stretch. Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.03 ERA), Colorado’s hottest pitcher during the second half of August, will take the mound Friday.
The 23-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and a .132 opponent batting average in his last three starts. He gave up one run and three hits in seven innings to beat Washington 5-1 on Saturday night
This will be Jimenez’s first appearance against the Diamondbacks.
Colorado and Arizona have split 12 games.