Hoping to expand their lead atop the AL East, the New York Yankees could use some momentum.
The Yankees will try to beat the reigning AL Cy Young winner for the first time in over three years when they open this three-game road series against the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
New York (88-57) leads the division by 3 1/2 games over slumping Boston with 17 games remaining in the regular season, including three against the Red Sox next week.
The Yankees hope they’ve regained some momentum with Sunday’s 6-5 victory over Los Angeles, ending a four-game slide that included three losses by one run. They had won nine of 10 prior to that skid.
“We’ve lost a lot of tough games,” said Mark Teixeira(notes), who drove in the decisive run Sunday on a misplayed fly ball to center. “We’re beat up, very tired, but … we needed a break like that. We’ve been through a lot lately, and for us to scratch this one out, we could smell it.”
New York would appear to be in position to build on that against last-place Seattle (61-85), which has lost eight of 11 after falling 2-1 to Kansas City on Sunday. However, few pitchers are tougher on the Yankees than Hernandez (14-11, 3.15 ERA).
The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in six starts against New York since a loss in the Bronx on May 3, 2008. Two of his three complete games during that span have come at Safeco Field.
Hernandez beat the Yankees again July 27, yielding one run and five hits in seven innings of a 9-2 victory.
The Seattle ace has been particularly good lately, going 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 23 innings during his last three starts.
Tuesday was another outstanding outing for Hernandez, who limited the Angels to one unearned run and four hits over eight innings of a 2-1 victory.
“He pitches at a level that very few do, but even at his level, he’s been a little bit better lately,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Dealing with Hernandez is usually tough enough, but the Yankees are expected to be without Alex Rodriguez(notes) for at least one more game due to a sore left thumb while Nick Swisher(notes) has tendinitis in his left elbow.
Phil Hughes(notes) (4-5, 6.41) faces the Mariners again after starting opposite Hernandez in July, when he allowed two runs and nine hits over six innings before the bullpen surrendered the remaining seven.
The right-hander is 0-1 with an 8.79 ERA in his last three starts, but was solid against Baltimore on Tuesday. He gave up two runs in six innings before leaving without a decision in a 5-3 win.
Mariano Rivera(notes) notched his 599th save Sunday, leaving him two shy of matching Trevor Hoffman’s(notes) all-time record. He’s converted 17 of 19 save opportunities in Seattle behind a 1.83 ERA in 27 games.
“The best ever. I keep saying the same thing over and over again, and it sounds repetitious every time I talk about Mo, but it’s true,” Jorge Posada(notes) told the team’s official website. “There’s nobody (who’s) ever going to get close to what he’s been able to achieve, because there’s nobody better. It’s just that simple.”