The Kansas City Royals have managed to stay in the wild-card conversation thanks in part to Danny Duffy, who has come up big since debuting last month.
The same can't be said for Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who has struggled to find his form of late.
Duffy takes the mound opposite Hernandez as the Royals and Mariners meet for the first time Monday at Kauffman Stadium.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Duffy (2-0, 1.10 ERA) has impressed since getting called up for the first time Aug. 7. The 24-year-old left-hander has struck out 17 in 16 1-3 innings and limited opponents to a .203 average.
"They told me when I first had surgery it's going to take some time to get your feel back for everything, and that's exactly what happened," Duffy, who lasted 3 2-3 innings in his first start before winning his last two, told MLB's official website. "I'm lucky to have it come back as fast as it has."
Duffy carries a 12 2-3 scoreless innings streak into the opener of this four-game set after scattering five hits in 6 2-3 innings in Wednesday's 8-1 victory at Minnesota.
"Sometimes he gets too excited on the mound, so I just tell him to keep down a little bit," catcher Salvador Perez said of Duffy, who has never faced the Mariners. "I tell him to work both sides of the plate and that's what he did. That's why he was so good."
Duffy will look to deliver another strong showing for the Royals (70-66), who are 5 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot.
"We're still pushing for it," said outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who has stolen a major league-leading 13 bases since Aug. 11. "We're not going to let up. We're going to give it all we've got."
Kansas City has won six of eight after concluding a 4-2 road trip with Sunday's 5-0 victory over Toronto. James Shields threw seven strong innings and Eric Hosmer went 2 for 5 with three RBIs.
"We've got some room to catch up," Shields said. "We're fighting right now. Today was a big game."
The Royals now try to keep things going against Hernandez (12-8, 2.97), who is hoping to avoid losing a career worst-tying fourth consecutive start. The former Cy Young Award winner's only such stretch came April 27-May 13, 2008.
Hernandez has posted a 9.64 ERA during his skid, giving up nine runs - a career-worst eight earned - in three-plus innings Wednesday in a 12-4 loss to Texas.
"It was embarrassing, terrible," said Hernandez, whose ERA has increased by more than one-half run in his last three starts. "I was a little bit up. That was the problem. And everything that I threw, they hit and found holes. That's a whole lot of runs."
Hernandez has gone 4-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts in the series, allowing three earned runs or fewer in each of those outings. The right-hander has limited Billy Butler and Alex Gordon to a combined eight hits in 38 at-bats (.211) in their matchups.
Butler, mired in an 0-for-15 slump, hit .464 with two homers and seven RBIs in eight games against the Mariners last year. Seattle, though, won seven of those contests.
The Mariners (62-74) took three straight from Houston to open an eight-game trek before falling 2-0 in Sunday's finale. Seattle was limited to four singles in dropping to 3-7 in its last 10 games.