For as good as Felix Hernandez has been over his last four starts, there have been pitchers experiencing similar levels of success.
One of them is on his own team.Chris Young will try to extend his dominance Tuesday night in Seattle as the surging Mariners continue a four-game set with the Minnesota Twins.After Monday's 2-0 series-opening victory, Seattle (49-40) is an MLB-best 15-6 since the middle of June thanks in large part to a pitching staff that has an AL-leading 2.37 ERA and MLB-leading .193 opponent average during the run. The win was the Mariners' eighth in 10 home games, leveling their record at Safeco Field at 22-22.Hernandez, predictably, has been excellent over the past few weeks, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts. But Young (8-4, 3.11 ERA) has been elite as well, going 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and .155 opponent average in his last four. The only hits he allowed in Wednesday's 5-2 win at Houston were solo home runs, while he struck out a season-high eight in seven innings."I don't know where we would be without him," manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB's official website. "He's done a tremendous job for us and today was no different. It was a quality start from start to finish. He gave us an opportunity to win."He's been even better at Safeco, compiling a 5-1 record, 2.19 ERA and .178 opponent average over eight starts.He faced the Twins in Minnesota on May 16 and didn't have the same stuff while yielding five runs and 10 hits, both season highs, over seven innings with zero strikeouts to take the loss. Brian Dozier went 2 for 4 with a home run.Young won't have to face two of the Twins' top hitters, Joe Mauer (oblique strain) and Danny Santana (bone bruise in left knee), who remain on the 15-day disabled list.Minnesota (39-49) is a season-worst 10 games under .500 and has dropped 11 of 14. Its starting pitching hasn't given it much of a chance with an MLB-worst 6.96 ERA in that stretch while being charged with all 11 losses.But Monday's loss was on the offense."Unfortunately, we weren't able to come through with getting any runs on their guy," manager Ron Gardenhire said.The Twins are 5-15 against the AL West, which amounts to the worst record by any AL team against any AL division. Dating to Sept. 11, they're 5-21 against such foes.The likelihood of that improving with Phil Hughes on the mound seems low. Hughes (8-5, 3.95) has fallen off substantially in his last three starts, going 1-2 with an 8.05 ERA after a strong two months.The right-hander was roughed up by his former club in Thursday's 7-4 loss, with the New York Yankees hanging seven runs on him in 6 1/3 innings.In his career against Seattle, it's been all or nothing. Hughes has held the Mariners to seven combined earned runs in six of his eight starts. The other two have produced 13 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. Including relief work, he's 5-3 with a 3.67 ERA in 11 appearances.Dustin Ackley is 5 for 10 against him.The Mariners designated backup catcher John Buck for assignment after Monday's game and are expected to make a corresponding move on Tuesday.
Chris Young has thrown 45.5 percent of his pitches up in the strike zone this season, the highest percentage among qualified starters by 5.3 percentage points. Brian Dozier has 11 home runs against pitches thrown in the upper part of the zone this season, three more than any other hitter in MLB.
Phil Hughes threw at least seven scoreless innings for the fourth time this season on Tuesday. He had three such starts in the previous three seasons combined.