Felix Hernandez was denied a seventh straight winning decision his last time out, but the Seattle Mariners ace is still pitching as well as anyone right now.
The same cannot be said of right-hander Josh Johnson, who could be pitching for his spot in the rotation Tuesday night when the Toronto Blue Jays go for their first three-game winning streak in seven weeks.
Hernandez (11-4, 2.30 ERA) was in line for the victory Thursday at Boston after throwing seven innings of one-run ball, but the Mariners’ bullpen surrendered seven runs in the final two frames of the 8-7 defeat.
“That’s a really tough loss for us because of how Felix was pitching and we couldn’t get it done,” losing pitcher Oliver Perez told the Mariners’ official website.
Hernandez, though, continues to get the job done. The AL ERA leader has given up two total runs in his last four outings and hasn’t allowed more than two in any of his last seven. Hernandez’s 1.41 ERA during that stretch is second only to New York Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda’s 1.38.
Hernandez had one of his most dominant starts of the season against Toronto (52-60), striking out seven in eight innings of a 4-0 road win May 3.
However, he’s 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two career home starts in this matchup, yielding seven runs each time.
That sounds like Johnson’s most recent outing. The first-year Blue Jay has a 14.06 ERA in his last four starts after getting tagged for a season-high 10 hits in 2 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 8-2 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s frustration. That’s it,” Johnson said after losing a career-worst sixth consecutive start. “I’m out there trying to battle, trying to get through it and trying to stay positive. You’ve got to find a way. I’ll come back and watch some video and do whatever I can to get back.”
Manager John Gibbons is sticking with the former NL ERA leader for now, saying that Johnson, “works as hard as anybody” and that “he’s one of those guys you root for,” but general manager Alex Anthopoulos needs to start seeing positive results.
“We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it’s really start-to-start at this point, it’s really the only way to characterize it,” Anthopoulos told the Blue Jays’ official website. “Right now, he’s going to make one more start and we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each time.”
Another big night from British Columbia native Brett Lawrie could help out Johnson in his first start against Seattle. Lawrie, a homer shy of the cycle in Monday’s 3-1 victory, is batting .414 (12 for 29) while hitting safely in each of the first eight games on a trip that ends Wednesday.
This three-game set feels more like a home series for the Blue Jays with plenty of fans making the short trip from Canada to Safeco Field.
“Obviously, it’s a positive when the whole crowd is cheering for your team,” Lawrie said. “It’s usually the other team. They picked us up tonight.”
So did Mark DeRosa, who delivered the go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning after Lawrie scored on Jose Reyes’ single.
The Blue Jays, who snapped a three-game skid at Seattle (52-60) in the opener, last strung together three straight wins during a franchise record-tying 11-game run June 11-23.