After a day off Thursday to revel in the first perfect game in franchise history, the 12-strikeout historical masterpiece by Felix Hernandez Wednesday against Tampa Bay, the Mariners return for three at home against the lowly (50-66) Minnesota Twins, last in the AL Central.
Hernandez’s perfect game marked the third no-hitter at Safeco Field in 2012. In addition to Philip Humber’s perfecto April 21 for the Chicago White Sox, six Mariners pitchers — Kevin Millwood , Charlie Furbush, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor and Lucas Luetge — combined to hold the Los Angeles Dodgers hitless at the park June 8.
The Mariners are the first team in MLB history to throw a perfect game and have one thrown against them. It was also the first time two have been thrown in the same stadium in one season.
It was the third perfect game this season, including San Francisco’s Matt Cain June 13 against Houston — the most in MLB history.
The last team to have two no-hitters in a season was the 1973 California Angels, with Nolan Ryan doing both May 15 vs. Kansas City and July 15 at Detroit.
Of the 22 previous perfect games, six were by 1-0 scores, the last by Roy Halladay May 29, 2010 at Florida. It was also the fourth 1-0 win for the Mariners this season.
Hernandez becomes the second Latin American pitcher to do the deed (Nicaragua’s Dennis Martinez for Montreal July 28, 1991, against the Dodgers)
The previous low for Hernandez, who struck out the side twice, in the sixth and eighth innings, was a one-hitter, a 3-0 win over Boston April 11, 2007. It was the fifth time he has struck out 10 or more. He’s 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 92.1 innings over his last 12 starts.
Looking ahead to Friday, the Mariners face Nick Blackburn in the series opener (Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch for Seattle), they will look at two pitchers they’ve never faced, LHP Scott Diamond Saturday and Sam DeDuno Sunday. Neither seems a candidate to become baseball’s 24th perfect-game pitcher.
But, as journeyman Humber of the White Sox demonstrated, you never know. Humber, by the way, is 4-5 since his perfect game against Seattle and is no longer in Chicago’s rotation.
All three weekend Seattle starters are on up-ticks. Iwakuma is 2-1 with 21 strikeouts in his last three, Jason Vargas Saturday is coming off a memorable win over Jered Weaver of the Angels, and Blake Beavan Sunday is 4-1 since his July 17 recall from AAA Tacoma.
A look at this weekend’s probable pitchers:
Iwakuma: The Japanese standout, who will notch his first career appearance against the Twins, is coming off a solid victory over the Angels in which he allowed three runs in seven-plus innings. The 31-year-old is 2-2 with a 3.73 ERA in seven starts since moving into the rotation. Last three starts: 2-1, 3.15, 21 strikeouts. Vs. Minnesota: First career start.
Blackburn: Blackburn struggled early against the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start, allowing three runs in the first inning. But the sinkerballer settled down and ended up allowing four runs on 11 hits and a walk over six-plus innings. Last three starts: 0-2, 4.74 ERA, eight strikeouts. Vs. Seattle: 0-1, 7.50 in 2012; 3-2, 3.44 in eight starts, career.
Vargas: Vargas raised his career-high win total to 13 by going 8.1 innings with one run allowed at Anaheim last Sunday in a memorable matchup against Jered Weaver, Vargas’ former Long Beach State teammate. Vargas is 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA over his past eight starts. Last three starts: 2-1, 2.31, 11 strikeouts. Vs. Minnesota: 0-0, 1.42 in one 2012 start; 2-1, 4.02 in six career games, including five starts.
Diamond: Diamond settled down after giving up two early homers against the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start, and ended up going seven strong innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He also struck out six and walked two. Last three starts: 1-1, 3.38, 12 strikeouts. Vs. Seattle: First career start.
Beavan: Despite taking the loss Monday against Tampa Bay after a rough, four-run third inning, Beavan is still 4-1 with a 4.02 ERA since being recalled from Triple-A July 17. The right-hander has not allowed more than two walks in a start this season. Last three starts: 1-1, 5.03, 10 strikeouts. Vs. Minnesota: First career start.
Deduno: Deduno had trouble with his control in his last start, walking five, but gave up three runs on five hits with six strikeouts in seven-plus innings Monday vs. the Tigers. He’s now issued 30 free passes in 40 innings but it hasn’t haunted him — yet. Last three starts: 2-0, 3.71, 10 strikeouts. Vs. Seattle: First career start.
NOTES: Mariners have won 16 series in 2012 . . . Mariners starters are 13-6, 2.89 and 19 quality starts in last 25 games . . . Mariners have won nine of past 10 at Safeco Field dating to July 26 . . . Kyle Seager had an eight-game hitting streak at Safeco Field snapped Wednesday when he went 0-for-3 . . . Left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush threw two scoreless innings for Triple-A Tacoma Tuesday and appears ready to rejoin the Mariners after making five rehab appearances since straining his left triceps. Furbush has given up four earned runs in six innings with Tacoma and struck out seven while getting progressively stronger over his past few outings. He needed just 18 pitches in his two innings Tuesday . . . Following the three-game series with the Twins, the Mariners will host the Cleveland Indians for three (Monday-Wednesday) and then embark on a seven-game road swing to Chicago and Minnesota. The Mariners will return to Safeco Field Friday, Aug. 31 to start a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.