It's beginning to look as if Felix Hernandez is moving into the favorite's role in the American League Cy Young Award race.
The Seattle Mariners right-hander, still just 26, threw his fifth shutout of the season Monday, and he earned his fourth 1-0 complete-game win. Hernandez beat the Minnesota Twins on the strength of Eric Thames' eighth-inning leadoff homer against Liam Hendriks.
To put that in some perspective, Hernandez has three 1-0 wins in his last five starts and four 1-0 wins, all complete games, since June 28, with one of those a perfect game. The only other active major league pitcher with four career complete-game 1-0 wins is the Yankees' CC Sabathia.
Hernandez is in the midst of his greatest run ever. Beginning with his June 28 shutout win of the Red Sox, he's gone 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA. The nine-game winning streak is the best single-season streak of his career; he won nine straight over two seasons 2009-10.
The five shutouts are one more than he had in his career coming into the season, and they are a Seattle single-season record.
His other 1-0 wins have come against some of the best offenses in the game -- the Red Sox (June 28), the Yankees (Aug. 4) and the Rays (the Aug. 15 perfect game) in addition to Monday against the Twins. Hernandez beat the Rangers 7-0 on July 14.
He's had two eight-inning starts without allowing a run and nine starts in which he allowed just one run. That's 16 of 27 starts allowing one or zero runs.
Hernandez gave up a leadoff triple to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in the seventh inning. It was the closest he came to giving up a run in any of the 1-0 games. The score was 0-0 at the time, and Hernandez got three grounders without Morneau being able to score.
"Arguably, that was the game right there," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It starts with Felix. He has to make the pitches."