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Hernandez Looks for 3rd Win

Early into 2007, Felix Hernandez is being mentioned in the same breath with some of baseball's recent greats.

Hernandez will try to become the first pitcher to win his first three starts without giving up a run since 2003 as the Seattle Mariners continue their three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.

Oddsmakers have made Seattle -1.5 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 7.5un total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Minnesota +1.5 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

After a lackluster 2006 season during which he was 12-14 with a 4.52 ERA, Hernandez came to spring training 20 pounds lighter and has been dominant. The right-hander scattered three hits and struck out 12 over eight innings en route to a 4-0 win over Oakland in his season debut on April 2, but was more impressive in his next start.

Pitching against rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka in the highly touted Japanese rookie's Fenway Park debut, Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Boston's J.D. Drew recorded the only hit against him in a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox on April 11.

"Felix came to the ballpark and was totally the underdog," Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves told the team's official Web site. "Everyone thought the other guy was going to win the ballgame. No one was talking about Felix. By the end of the night, everybody was talking about him."

Woody Williams, now with Houston, was the last pitcher to win his first three starts without giving up a run when he did so with St. Louis four years ago. Last season, Hernandez's third win didn't come until May 21, his ninth start.

Hernandez has thrown 145 of his 221 pitches for strikes this season, and opponents are hitting just .075 against him.

"He can have a career like Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez," Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said after going 0-for-3 last week against Hernandez. "If he behaves and takes care of himself, he can be somebody really big in this game."

In two career wins over the Twins (8-5) at Safeco Field, Hernandez has given up just one run and 11 hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in 15 innings. In his last four home starts overall, he's 3-0 with an 0.61 ERA.

Carlos Silva (0-1, 0.77) has pitched very well for Minnesota, but hasn't gotten much support. In 11 2-3 innings, the right-hander has allowed one run and 12 hits with three walks and five strikeouts, but the Twins have scored just two runs while he's pitched.

Silva scattered seven hits and two walks while fanning four in 6 2-3 shutout innings Thursday against Tampa Bay, but didn't get a decision as the Twins won 3-2 on Justin Morneau's walk-off homer leading off the ninth.

In five starts versus Seattle (5-4), Silva is 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA. He's struck out 19 while walking just two.

With an 11-2 rout in Tuesday's series opener, the Twins have alternated wins and losses in their last five games. Torii Hunter capped a five-run fifth inning with a grand slam before leaving with a bruised shoulder after trying to catch a sinking liner in the sixth.

"If I've got to bunt, I'll play (Wednesday). I'll take my whipping like a man. He'll either get me or I'll get him," said Hunter, 2-for-6 with two strikeouts against Hernandez.

Jeff Weaver, a member of St. Louis' championship team last season, struggled again for Seattle. He gave up seven runs and 10 hits over six innings and fell to 0-2, though his ERA was halved from 31.50 to 15.75.

``Good things to take from it. Got some early outs and wasn't falling behind,'' Weaver said. ``Just one too many sliders.''

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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