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Angels Set To Face Mariners In A Battle Of Aces

(Sports Network) - The Seattle Mariners may have traded one ace, but they still have one of the top young pitchers in Felix Hernandez.

Hernandez will look to stop his club's six-game series losing streak to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight, when the American League West foes continue a four-game set at Angel Stadium.

The Mariners figured to have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball at the top of their rotation after trading for Cliff Lee in the offseason, but the club's 35-53 mark prior to the All-Star break led to the club dealing Lee a week ago.

That leaves Hernandez again as the Mariners' ace, and though he is just 7-5 this year, the young hurler has posted a 2.88 earned run average and has won his last four decisions.

Hernandez hasn't lost in his last six starts and is pitching to a 1.39 ERA since his last defeat on June 8. The 24-year-old has also pitched nine innings in four of his last five starts, earning three complete games in that span. One of those came on Saturday versus the Yankees, as Hernandez held New York to just a run on 10 hits, while walking two and striking out nine in the 4-1 victory.

"There was no chance they were going to take me out of that game," Hernandez said after throwing his fourth complete game this year and 11th of his career.

The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA in two starts versus the Angels this year and 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA against them lifetime. He did, however, throw eight innings of one-run ball at Angel Stadium on May 29 in a no-decision.

He faces a worthy opponent tonight in All-Star Jered Weaver, who lost his last two starts before the break and will try to get back into the win column tonight.

Weaver has allowed nine runs over just 12 1/3 innings during his brief skid and was charged with five runs on seven hits over six innings of a loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. He did strike out seven batters, giving him a major league-leading 137 over 121 innings.

The 27-year-old righty is 8-5 with a 3.20 ERA this year and 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in eight starts at home. He is 9-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 16 career starts versus the Mariners and has allowed just one unearned run in two starts and 14 1/3 innings versus them this year. He won one of those games while getting a no-decision in the other.

Weaver will take the hill one day after Joel Pineiro threw seven innings of three-run ball in an 8-3 victory to record his seventh straight winning decision. Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu both added three RBI for the Angels, who had lost eight of 10 before the break and trail the Texas Rangers by 4 1/2 games for first place in the American League West.

Pineiro improved to 10-6 and was backed by an offense that pounded out 16 hits. Aybar and catcher Jeff Mathis both had three of those hits and scored twice.

"Defense and good run support, that's all I can ask for," Pineiro said. "Jeff and I had a good game plan. He calls a good game. My game plan was to get ahead and I had all my pitches working."

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki hit a three-run double in the fifth inning that extended his hitting streak to 14 games (.283, 17-for-60) and pulled the Mariners within one run of the Angels early, but the club failed to get any closer.

Doug Fister was charged with 12 hits and six runs over 5 2/3 frames in losing his fourth consecutive decision.

"Fister got hurt early. He left some pitches up," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Giving up that many hits cost him. Offensively we had opportunities, but we were only 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position."

The Angels have won six straight in this series and are 8-2 against Seattle this season. Anaheim has not lost a season series against the Mariners since 2003.