(Sports Network) - Felix Hernandez makes what could be his final case for the American League Cy Young Award this evening when the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers continue their three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Although Hernandez is just 12-12 on the year, he leads the American League with a 2.31 earned run average, 33 starts, 29 quality starts and 241 2/3 innings pitched, while ranking second with a career-best 227 strikeouts.
Because of the amount of innings he has pitched, this could be the final start of the year for the 24-year-old hurler.
"We know where he is innings-wise and right now, he's more than what he had last year," interim manager Daren Brown said. "He's 24 years old and we are going to take care of him. He's very important to us. I want to take it one start at a time. He's pitching tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Hernandez was again brilliant last Thursday, but was still charged with the loss, as he allowed one run - Jose Bautista's 50th home run - and two hits in eight innings of a 1-0 setback.
In Hernandez's 12 losses this season, the Mariners have produced only seven runs.
Hernandez has now pitched into the seventh inning in a club-record 24 consecutive starts and has allowed seven total runs over his last nine trips to the hill for an ERA of 0.94, while receiving zero runs of support (runs scored when he is pitching) in seven of his last 13 outings.
"Yeah, I've done a lot," Hernandez recently said. "Just trying to help the team to win [that's it]."
Hernandez beat the Rangers the last time he faced them, but is just 9-12 lifetime in this series with a 4.02 ERA in 27 starts. He is 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA in five starts against Texas this season.
In the opener of this set on Monday, Justin Smoak belted a three-run homer in his return to the Lone Star State, and Seattle held on for a 7-5 win.
Texas' first-round pick in 2008, Smoak was dealt to the Mariners in the trade involving pitcher Cliff Lee.
Franklin Gutierrez had two hits, knocked in a run and scored twice for Seattle, which had lost 13 of its last 17 road games. David Pauley (4-8) gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings to win his second straight start.
"Put in a good mix tonight. My sinker was really good and my changeup was probably the best it's been all year. We kept guys off-balance," Pauley said.
Nelson Cruz launched a three-run homer and Vladimir Guerrero added a solo shot for the Rangers, who returned home from a 5-5 road trip during which they clinched their first playoff spot and AL West crown since 1999.
Texas raised the division championship flag and unfurled a banner prior to the opener of this three-game set.
The September woes continued for Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson (14-8) after he was tagged for six runs on eight hits over five full frames. The left-hander is winless (0-3) in five outings this month.
"You give up runs, it sucks. You lose, it sucks," Wilson said.
Hoping for a better effort tonight, the Rangers turn to Scott Feldman, who will be making a spot start in place of Lee to get him on target to pitch Game 1 of the ALDS next week.
Feldman was a 17-game winner for the Rangers last season, but has struggled this year going 7-10 with a 5.45 ERA. Tonight's outing will be his first start since July 24.