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SEA@HOU: Felix holds Astros scoreless through six

Felix Hernandez hasn't allowed a run since July 8. He hasn't lost a game since May 25. His next task: the Minnesota Twins.

The Mariners ace is 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA over his last 10 starts, but he's been even sharper of late with a 1.29 ERA in his last four starts with a 3-0 record during that stretch.

"I feel pretty good," Hernandez said. "I've just been throwing a lot of strikes, trying to control the walks and just pound the strike zone and that helped me a lot."

The four-time All-Star is 11-4 this season with a 2.43 ERA -- the lowest in the American League.

Meanwhile the Twins' Scott Diamond gets the nod Friday. Where Hernandez has excelled of late, Diamond has run into some issues. The left-hander is 5-9 this season with a 5.53 ERA and is 2-5 in his last 10 starts with a 6.04 ERA. In two of his last three starts he's only managed to pitch 4 2/3 innings -- the third was shortened due to a rain delay in New York.

In his latest outing Sunday against the Indians, Diamond gave up five earned runs on seven hits and three walks. After the game he admitted that his stuff just wasn't working.

"My stuff was really bad," Diamond said. "Coming out of the 'pen, I felt like everything was gonna be good. First inning went OK, second inning was OK, and then after that, everything started to slip. I think I tried to overdo some things and I kind of let what happened -- I was one pitch away in the fifth, and it was frustrating that I just couldn't get that last one."

Diamond did face the Mariners earlier this season at Target Field. In six innings he shut out Seattle and the bullpen picked it up from there as the Twins won 10-0.

Twins: Herrmann relishing time as everyday catcher
With Joe Mauer in Minnesota on paternity leave, Chris Herrmann has filled in for the Twins catcher and has seen more time in the lineup.

"Mauer's doing his thing with his wife and it's completely understandable," Herrmann said. "Family comes first no matter what. This opens up a big opportunity for me to show everybody what I'm capable of doing to help this team win ballgames."

In three games Herrmann has gone 5-for-14 at the plate with a three-hit game Tuesday night which included a tenth inning grand slam -- the first for the Twins this season.

Mauer's time on the paternity list expires Friday and is expected to be back in the lineup Saturday.

Mariners: Offense booming over the month of July
July has been a good month for the Seattle ballclub. With a win over the Twins Thursday night, the Mariners are 14-6 on the month.

That record has come at the hands of a bolstered offense. In July, the Mariners lead the Majors in home runs with 29 and rank second in runs, slugging percentage at .462, OPS at .808 and extra-base hits at 68 prior to Thursday night's game.

They added one home run, seven extra-base hits and eight runs in their 8-2 win in the series opener against the Twins.

"It feels great," Hernandez said of the increased run support. "These guys have been unbelievable, we've been scoring a lot of runs. It's good when we win. Our confidence right now is one of the best. All those guys go to the plate and just fight every at-bat and if the [opposing pitcher] makes a mistake, they're going to hit it out of the ballpark."

Worth Noting
• The Twins are 8-5 against the AL West this season, winning six of their last nine.

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