After taking advantage of a downtrodden opponent in his last start, Felix Hernandez now faces another.
The Minnesota Twins will at least be entering a challenging matchup with the Seattle Mariners ace on a rare positive note Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.
After beginning May with a bad start in Oakland, Hernandez (4-3, 2.21 ERA) has bounced back by stringing together three good ones. The six-time All-Star held lowly Cincinnati to four singles and twice stranded the bases loaded in six innings during Saturday’s 4-0 win, improving to 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA since being reached for eight runs in four-plus innings by the A’s on May 4.
Hernandez could be in line for a repeat result against Minnesota (12-34), which ranks last in the AL in runs and near the bottom of the majors with runners in scoring position. He’s dominated the Twins over the previous four seasons, amassing a 4-0 record and 0.63 ERA in five meetings.
Minnesota also owns the AL’s worst road mark at 4-19 and enters a six-game West Coast trip having lost 20 of 25 overall. The Twins did generate some momentum heading into the trek, though, after scoring four unanswered runs to rally for Wednesday’s 7-5 victory over Kansas City.
Miguel Sano hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth inning and Eduardo Nunez and Brian Dozier went back-to-back in the first to help the Twins halt a three-game skid.
“It feels a lot better in here after a win,” Dozier, who ended a 1-for-20 rut and 13-game homer drought, told MLB’s official website. “It’s obviously always good to score early, and you see the life and some of the swagger come back. We felt that from the first inning. It was good to see.”
The Twins have won five of six at Safeco Field, with the lone blemish Hernandez’s five-hit, nine-strikeout shutout April 24, 2015.
AL West-leading Seattle (28-18) is coming off its best offensive display of the season, homering four times and collecting 17 hits in Wednesday’s 13-3 rout of Oakland. Adam Lind broke out of his slump by finishing 4 for 4 with two homers and six RBIs, while Nelson Cruz continued his hot stretch with three hits including a two-run shot.
“A really outstanding night for our offense,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was certainly great to see Adam Lind have that kind of night. He’s capable of that. He’s capable of carrying a club for a few weeks.”
Lind, who entered Wednesday hitting .216 with 12 RBIs, will likely sit the opener against left-hander Pat Dean (0-1, 3.86). The 27-year-old rookie pitched well in his first major league start, surrendering a two-run homer to Jose Bautista but just two other hits in six innings Saturday against Toronto.
“The big thing was just staying aggressive,” he said. “I knew these guys would be out there swinging and swinging hard. They’ve been doing that all series so I wanted to make sure I was aggressive as well.”
Dean will face a Seattle lineup that likely won’t contain Leonys Martin after he exited Wednesday’s win with a hamstring injury. The center fielder is 15 for 30 with four homers over a nine-game hitting streak.
Cruz is batting .367 with five homers and 15 RBIs over his last 14 games and has five home runs in 55 at-bats against lefties.