Felix Hernandez has made four All-Star teams, thrown a perfect game and won an American League Cy Young Award with the Mariners during the first nine years of his big league career. In that span, Seattle has posted just two winning campaigns and never reached the postseason.
Could this be the year Hernandez, 28, makes his playoff debut?
Consider: After a 7-1 loss to the White Sox on Friday, the Mariners are 47-39 and still hold the second AL Wild Card spot. Hernandez, now in his 10th year, is 10-2 with an AL-leading 2.10 ERA. The Venezuelan right-hander makes his July debut when the Mariners face the White Sox on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Hernandez didn't want any credit for the Mariners' recent success after being named AL Pitcher of Month in June while going 3-1 with a 1.22 ERA and posting a staggering 54-6 K/BB ratio in six starts.
"The whole starting pitching has been doing pretty good. We've just got to keep rolling, just keep pitching like that," he said. "We have an outstanding bullpen, so we just need to keep the game close and the offense is coming through, too.
"This has been really fun," he added. "I'm happy here and it's fun to watch all these guys."
Hernandez hasn't had much fun at U.S. Cellular Field, where he's 1-5 with a 4.88 ERA in eight career starts. He's 4-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 career starts against the White Sox.
Chicago will send southpaw Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.44 ERA) to the mound Saturday to counter Hernandez. In his past three starts, Quintana is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 21 strikeouts.
He tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits in his last outing as the White Sox beat the Blue Jays, 4-0. Quintana fanned seven, walked two and earned the win.
Mariners: Hart off DL; Smoak staying in Triple-A
Veteran designated hitter Corey Hart was activated off the 15-day disabled list on Friday to give the Mariners a right-handed, middle-of-the-order presence against White Sox southpaws Chris Sale and Quintana in the first two games of their weekend series at U.S. Cellular Field.
But the Mariners will keep first baseman Justin Smoak in the Minor Leagues even after he was also activated off the DL on Friday, with the 27-year-old then optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, where he's been playing on a rehab the last two weeks while recovering from a strained quad.
That means Logan Morrison has won the first-base job for now. Morrison went into Friday hitting .267 with four home runs and 14 RBIs since replacing Smoak on June 10.
"It's tough, but we only have so many spots," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "LoMo has been playing extremely well and has been a big lift for us and Smoaky will continue to get at-bats there and get sharp. Listen, at some point he'll be helping this club again."
White Sox: Abreu raking
Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 18 games when he blasted a two-run homer off Mariners starter Roenis Elias in the fifth inning of Friday's win. It's the longest streak by a White Sox player this season.
Earlier this week, Abreu was named the AL Rookie of the Month for June.
Meanwhile, Friday marked the third day in a row and 42nd time this season Abreu manned the No. 3 spot in Chicago's lineup. That helped him surpass left-handed hitting third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who's been the No. 3 hitter in 41 games - mostly against right-handed pitchers.
"There's times when I think we're better off with [Abreu] batting third," manager Robin Ventura said. "There are times when Conor is swinging it good, and depending on the matchup, it's nice to have Conor in front of him to get a few more guys on base when he gets up there."
Ventura added that Abreu could theoretically hit anywhere, though he'd never put him at leadoff. This season, the 27-year-old Cuban has batted cleanup in 30 games and spent one game in the seventh spot.
"I don't think there is any set way to do it with him, but I know that I like guys on when he comes to the plate," Ventura said.
• With the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka giving up four runs in his latest win Thursday, Hernandez now leads the AL in ERA at 2.10. Going into Friday's games, he was also first in WHIP (0.919), tied for first in quality starts (16), second in innings pitched (128 1/3), third in strikeouts (137) and tied for third in wins (10).
• The White Sox are 5-11 this season against the AL West, but overall they've won five of their last seven games.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.