Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista has blasted a team-record 49 homers this season and is on the verge of becoming the 26th player in history to reach the 50-homer mark, while Seattle superstar Ichiro Suzuki enters today's tilt two hits shy of extending his major league-record streak to 10 seasons with 200 or more hits and also matching Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons with 10.
Bautista, who had not hit more than 16 homers in a season before this year, may have a tougher time reaching his goal today, as he will be facing an American League Cy Young candidate in right-hander Felix Hernandez, who despite a 12-11 record, has pitched to an AL-best 2.35 earned run average.
Hernandez, who also ranks first in quality starts (28), innings (233 2/3) and strikeouts (222), has allowed six earned runs over his last eight starts for an 0.91 ERA. He was terrific in beating the Texas Rangers on Friday, as he allowed a run and three hits in eight innings of work.
Seattle managed to score two runs for the 24-year-old hurler, but six times in his last 12 starts it has failed to score a run for him.
Hernandez, who has faced the Blue Jays six times and is 3-2 against them with a 4.10 ERA, will have the task of keeping Bautista in the ball park this afternoon, as he tries to become the first player to 50 homers since Prince Fielder (50) and Alex Rodriguez (54) last reached the milestone in 2007.
On Wednesday it was Seattle infielder Jose Lopez who left the yard, as he clubbed three homers and drove in four runs to propel the Mariners to a 6-3 win. Michael Saunders blasted a two-run homer for the Mariners, while David Pauley (3-8) gave up two runs on six hits and struck out five over six innings.
"It was a good team game tonight," Saunders said.
Suzuki, who has led the majors in hits in each of the last four seasons and six times in his career, went 1-for-5 in the win. He leads the league with 198 hits and should he end the year as the league leader in that category it would mark the fifth straight year he has done so and the seventh time overall, which would also tie Rose and Ty Cobb for most seasons leading the majors in hits.
Vernon Wells hit a solo shot for the Blue Jays, who have homered in 10 straight home games. Toronto's major league-leading 132 home runs up north are second most in team history, two shy of the 134 longballs it hit in 2000.
Kyle Drabek (0-2), making his second big league start, allowed three runs on four hits in five full frames.
"(Drabek) has really good stuff. It's just a matter of (him) harnessing it," said Toronto catcher John Buck.
Heading to the hill for the Jays tonight will be righty Shaun Hill, who has lost both of his starts this season. After losing to Texas on Sept. 9, Hill was defeated in Baltimore on Sept.14, as he allowed three runs (two earned) and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
He beat the Mariners the only other time he faced them.
The Mariners and Jays split a two-game set at Safeco Field back in May.