GAME: Mariners (45-52, 4th, AL West, -11.0 GB) at Astros (33-63, 5th, AL West, -22.5 GB). GAME #: 98. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 12th (Mariners lead 6-5). WHEN: Sunday, 11:10 a.m., Minute Maid Park. STREAKS: Mariners W 5; Astros L 4. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
Since Felix Hernandez entered the major leagues in 2005, 15 pitchers
(both leagues) have won an ERA title, including Clayton Kershaw (2011-12) of the Dodgers and Johan Santana (2006 Twins; 2008 Mets) twice each. Of the 15, only three, Zach Greinke (2009 Royals), Josh Johnson (2010 Marlins) and Hernandez (2010 Mariners) have led a league while pitching for a losing club.
Hernandez, of course, is the only one of the three to lead a league — 2.27 in 2010 — while pitching for a team that lost 100 or more games (61-101), and also the only one of the three to fail to make an All-Star team in the year in which he led in ERA.
Unless the Mariners can make up considerable ground — they’ve given it a good shot in recent days with a season-high five-game winning streak — Hernandez stands a chance of becoming the first pitcher to win two ERA titles throwing for losing clubs.
He enters Sunday’s series finale against the Houston Astros leading the American League at 2.53 and looking to extend another nice run. Hernandez has won five consecutive decisions and hasn’t lost since May 25. He’s had four no-decisions in that span, in which Seattle scored four or fewer runs three times.
The Mariners, one of the hottest-hitting teams in the majors over the past two weeks, eked out a 4-2 win over the Astros Saturday although they only had one hit, a two-run double by Michael Saunders in the seventh inning that snapped a 2-2 tie.
Hernandez will probably need more than that to beat the Astros, bad as they are. He will oppose Jordan Lyles, who has to be considered as close to an ace as Houston has, given that he has a winning record (4-3) on a team headed for 100 losses.
If the Mariners win Sunday, they will have back-to-back series sweeps (previously the Angels) for the first time since Aug. 17-22, 2012, when they broomed Minnesota and Cleveland in consecutive three-game series.
MARINERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (10-4, 2.53 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)
The 27-year-old Hernandez, in his ninth major league season, all with Seattle, will make his 21st start and second against the Astros. Hernandez, who pitched one scoreless inning in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, is coming off back-to-back victories over Boston and the L.A. Angels, giving him 10 wins before the All-Star break for the first time in his career. Hernandez not only leads the AL in ERA, he leads the majors in innings (138.1).
- LAST START: June 13 at Safeco Field, defeated the Angels 6-0; 0 earned runs on 7 hits in 8.0 innings; 4 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 home runs, 109 pitches, 69 for strikes.
- LAST VS. ASTROS: April 22 at Minute Maid Park, won 7-1; 0 earned runs on 5 hits in 6.0 innings; 9 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, 93 pitches, 58 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. ASTROS: 1-1, 3.00 ERA in 2 starts covering 12.0 innings; 15 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 1.58 WHIP.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: Same as career vs. Astros.
- LOVES TO FACE: Trevor Crowe (0-for-3, .000), Carlos Pena (2-for-20, .100), Chris Carter (1-for-6, .167).
- HATES TO FACE: Jason Castro (2-for-2, 1.000), Justin Maxwell (1-for-2, .500), Jose Altuve (1-for-3, .333).
- CURRENT ASTROS VS. HERNANDEZ: 7-for-40, .175 BA, 12 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, .233 on-base percentage.
ASTROS: RHP Jordan Lyles (4-3, 4.02 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)
The 22-year-old Lyles, a Hartsville, SC., native in his third major league season, all with Houston, will make his 15th start and second against the Mariners. Lyles, with two losses and two no-decisions in his past four outings, has not won since June 18 when he defeated Milwaukee 10-1. Lyles has pitched into the seventh inning in six of his starts. He recorded 10 strikeouts the last time he faced Seattle.
- LAST START: July 10 at St. Louis, took a no-decision in Houston’s 5-4 loss; 4 earned runs on 6 hits in 6.1 innings; 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 95 pitches, 59 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: June 12, took a no-decision in Houston’s 6-1 victory; 0 earned runs on 3 hits in 7.0 innings; 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 107 pitches, 67 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 0-0, 0.00 ERA in 1 start covering 7.0 innings; 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 0.71 WHIP.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: 8-11, 4.35 ERA in 31 games, including 28 starts, covering 165.2 innings; 154 strikeouts, 54 walks, 18 home runs, 1.36 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Jason Bay (0-for-3, .000), Brendan Ryan (0-for-3, .000), Endy Chavez (1-for-6, .167).
- HATES TO FACE: Nick Franklin (2-for-3, .667), Mike Zunino (1-for-3, .333), Michael Morse (2-for-7, .286).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. LYLES: 6-for-32, .188 BA, 11 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home runs, .235 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Done Sunday. Mariners return to Safeco Field for a seven-game home stand featuring Cleveland and Minnesota.
- The Mariners have won a season-high five in a row and 10 of their past 15.
- Hisashi Iwakuma improved to 9-4, 2.99 Saturday by allowing two earned runs in 7.0 innings. Iwakuma has won his past two starts.
- Closer Tom Wilhelmsen recorded his 21st save in 26 chances Saturday with a scoreless ninth inning.
- Seattle had its home run streak snapped at 23 consecutive games Saturday. The Mariners were trying to match the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers at 24 straight games hitting a homer, tied for third best all time, but only came close on a 415-foot double by Michael Saunders in the seventh inning.
- Brad Miller, who hit two homers Friday night, is the second Mariner this season to record a multi-homer game for the first homer runs of a career. Nick Franklin hit a pair May 30 at San Diego.
- Miller has two games with four RBIs, making him the first player in franchise history to do that in the first 17 games of a career.
- Kyle Seager had his 15-game streak snapped Saturday when he went 0-for-4. Seager also had a 16-game streak in April, making him the fourth player in club history with two hitting streaks of at least 15 games in the same season. Ichiro accomplished the feat five times (last in 2008), Adrian Beltre did it in 2006 and Joey Cora in 1998.
|7/21||Sun||at Hou||RHP Felix Hernandez (10-4) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (4-3)|
|7/22||Mon||vs. Clev||RHP Aaron Harang (4-8) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jiminez (7-4)|
|7/23||Tue||vs. Clev||RHP Erasmo Ramirez (0-0) vs. RHP Zach McAllister (4-5)|
|7/24||Wed||vs. Clev||LHP Joe Saunders (9-8) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (5-4)|