After getting off to a so-so start, Felix Hernandez is back to being a dominant pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. That has hardly been the case when he's faced the Toronto Blue Jays in his career.
Hernandez has been pounded in his last two starts against Toronto, but he enters Friday night's opener of a three-game series on his best run of 2013.
The right-hander went 1-2 with a 3.05 ERA in his first three outings this season before turning things around over his last three. He's 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA over that span, allowing 15 hits and two walks while striking out 28 in 22 innings.
Hernandez (3-2, 1.90 ERA) gave up one earned run and five hits in eight innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 on Saturday.
"Like always, he throw an invisible ball. It's unbelievable," catcher Jesus Montero said. "He settled in so great."
Hernandez's pitches haven't been so invisible to the Blue Jays. He's gone 3-4 with a 5.13 ERA in nine starts against them - easily his highest ERA versus a team he's faced more than once - and his last two matchups have been particularly one-sided.
Hernandez has allowed seven runs in each outing while giving up 22 hits over 10 innings. He lasted four innings and lost 8-3 at Toronto on Sept. 13 in his last start in the series.
He'll be looking to end those struggles while helping the Mariners (13-17) stay hot. They beat Baltimore 8-3 on Wednesday for their fifth victory in seven games following a 2-7 stretch.
"I feel like our guys have taken significant steps and what you are seeing now is more the norm in regard to what our guys are capable of," manager Eric Wedge said. "The way we're going to go about doing it is to be a complete team and to be able to count on all areas of our club."
Michael Morse hit his third homer in four games, a two-run shot, to become the first Mariner to have nine home runs in the team's first 30 games since Mike Cameron in 2002. Morse is 6 for 15 with four RBIs in the past four games.
Seattle now plays five straight and 14 of 17 on the road, where it has lost seven of eight.
The Mariners were scheduled to face Josh Johnson on Friday night, but the Blue Jays (10-19) placed him on the 15-day disabled list Thursday because of inflammation in his right triceps.
Ricky Romero will take his place after struggling in spring training and beginning the season in the minors to work on his mechanics. The left-hander was an All-Star in 2011, but he went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA in 32 starts last season.
Romero, who made one start for Class A Dunedin and allowed one run in seven innings, is 1-3 with a 3.88 ERA in eight starts against the Mariners.
"Everything we've seen, it's been really good," manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays' official website. "... He's had a lot of work, he just hasn't had a lot of game action."
Toronto lost for the sixth time in seven games Thursday, 3-1 to Boston at home. The Blue Jays also scored once in falling to the Red Sox on Wednesday.
"If we keep beating ourselves up it's going to be a long year," third baseman Brett Lawrie said. "I think it's time we start putting stuff behind us and just come here and play baseball."
Seattle had won five in a row against the Blue Jays until they roughed up Hernandez in September.