The Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez was uncharacteristically knocked around last week, but he's been especially good in two career matchups against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Looking to bounce back from one of his worst performances of the year, Hernandez and the Mariners try to avoid a two-game home sweep to the surging Pirates on Wednesday.
After going 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his previous four outings, Hernandez (8-4, 2.71 ERA) yielded season highs of seven runs and 12 hits in five innings Thursday in a 10-9 road defeat to the Los Angeles Angels. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, who had only allowed six homers in his first 15 starts, was taken deep twice and struck out a season-low two but didn't get a decision.
"He just had a bad day, and they started squaring him up," manager Eric Wedge told MLB's official website. "He's human. Every now and again you see that he is human, and it's the big leagues and he just had a bad day."
Hernandez, in contrast, has had his way with Pittsburgh (47-30). The right-hander has gone eight innings in each of his two starts in the series, winning both while compiling a 0.56 ERA. He gave up one run and six hits May 8 in a 2-1 win at PNC Park.
"He never hit that other gear with the velocity," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Hernandez, who's allowed one run in each of his last four interleague starts spanning 30 innings. "But the spin and the sequences, the breaking ball to right-handed hitters and the change to left-handers ... still filthy."
Getting the best of Pittsburgh again may not prove as easy this time around. Starling Marte hit a pair of homers and tripled and Brandon Inge, Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez also went deep as the Pirates posted their season-high fifth consecutive win, 9-4 on Tuesday.
"They always say that hitting is contagious. It's true, when one guys goes, another one goes,'' Inge said. "It's something we just rolled with.''
Pittsburgh has averaged 7.0 runs and clubbed 12 homers during its run.
Sanchez is 6 for 13 with two home runs in the last three contests, and Pedro Alvarez is batting .378 with five homers and 13 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.
Inge and Martin are a combined 7 for 39 (.179) with 15 strikeouts against Hernandez. Travis Snider is 1 for 12.
The Pirates give the ball to Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 3.07), who comes off the disabled list following a three-week absence. The right-hander allowed a season-high four earned runs before being removed after the first inning with forearm tightness June 2 in a 5-4, 11-inning win over Cincinnati.
In his final rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis last Wednesday, Gomez struck out four and didn't allow a hit over five scoreless innings.
He yielded two hits and two walks over five scoreless innings in a 4-1 victory over Seattle on May 7, improving to 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners.
After placing Franklin Gutierrez back on the disabled list with another hamstring issue, Seattle (34-44) recalled Dustin Ackley on Tuesday. Ackley, who was sent down May 26 after hitting .205 in 45 games, posted a .365 average and 21 runs in 25 contests with Triple-A Tacoma.
"He's earned it," Wedge said of Ackley's return. "You look at his at-bats and the consistency down there, I think he's taken care of some things mentally that he needed to get beyond. And it's paid for him. He's a hitter. He's always hit. He's going to hit. He just needed to get back to where he needed to get to."