He’ll try to win his fourth straight decision Monday night when the Mariners open a three-game home series against the Kansas City Royals.
Hernandez (6-5, 3.03 ERA) turned in a breakout 2009, going 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and finishing second to Kansas City’s Zack Greinke(notes) for the AL Cy Young Award. It took only 13 starts this season for Hernandez to match that loss total.
The right-hander, though, has been overpowering in going 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his last four outings. He fell one out shy of a complete game in the first contest of that stretch before going nine innings in each of the next three.
“Felix won 19 games last year and he’s pitching as good right now as he was last year,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners’ official website. “If he had better run support, his numbers would be a lot better.”
Hernandez was brilliant Tuesday in a 7-0 win at the New York Yankees, striking out a season-high 11 in a two-hitter. He has 37 strikeouts over his last four starts, and 116 on the season - tied for third-most in the AL.
“With Felix, that might be the best pure stuff I’ve seen him have in a ballgame,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s awfully hard to catch, moving all over the place.”
Hernandez is 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA in six career starts against Kansas City (36-46), including a 3-1 road loss April 26 in which he allowed three runs over seven innings. Royals leading hitter David DeJesus(notes) is 7 for 20 against him.
Bannister has failed to reach the fifth inning in three of his last four outings, going 1-3 with a 9.53 ERA in that span. He lasted four innings and yielded four runs last Tuesday in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Manager Ned Yost defended the latest poor outing from his right-hander.
“You look at the balls hit off Banny they were well-placed bloop doubles, which we live by those,” Yost said. “They didn’t really crush the ball on him.”
Bannister is 1-4 with a 4.32 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners. He has fared well against Seattle’s top two hitters - Ichiro Suzuki(notes) (3 for 13) and Franklin Gutierrez(notes) (2 for 16).
The Mariners (34-47) completed a 4-5 trip with Sunday’s 8-1 win at Detroit. Cliff Lee(notes) struck out 11 and fell one inning shy of his fourth straight complete game, and Russell Branyan(notes) and Casey Kotchman(notes) each homered and drove in three runs.
Seattle ended a three-game skid in which it totaled four runs.
Kansas City missed a chance at its first four-game win streak after an 11-0 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. The Royals have still won seven of 10 overall.