If the Mariners want to disrupt a pattern of giving ace Felix Hernandez minimal run support, they'll have to do it against Red Sox right-hander John Lackey as the clubs open a three-game series on Monday night at Safeco Field.
Lackey is 15-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 career starts against the Mariners and he's 8-4 with a 2.96 ERA this season, including a blistering month of June (2-1, 2.27 ERA in four starts).
Those numbers don't exactly favor a Mariners team that has scored six runs total in Hernandez's last three starts. His last time out, King Felix picked up a no-decision despite giving up one run and three hits in seven innings, as the Mariners dropped a 2-1 decision to the Padres at Petco Park.
"Every time we don't score runs for Felix, we can't say it's a tough game for Felix," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It's a tough game for the Seattle Mariners."
Hernandez (8-2, 2.22 ERA) has been tough on about every team he's thrown against this season. Entering Sunday, he was tied for first among American League starters in WHIP (0.95). He also was second in the Major Leagues with 122 strikeouts.
After Hernandez's fastball dipped in velocity during the past few seasons, he's seemingly rediscovered his four-seamer, throwing it harder and with more consistency.
"I think he's found his fastball again ... he's got a lot of confidence in it," McClendon said.
The Mariners should hold a similar sentiment after marching into Kansas City and sweeping a weekend series despite the fact that a third of Seattle's lineup -- right fielder Michael Saunders, first baseman Justin Smoak and designated hitter Corey Hart -- is rehabbing injuries with Triple-A Tacoma.
Mariners: Bullpen carrying load
McClendon used a by-committee approach in relief to preserve a 2-1 win over the Royals on Sunday.
Relievers Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush, Danny Farquhar and Fernando Rodney combined to throw 2 1/3 scoreless innings after starter Roenis Elias exited with a one-run lead in the seventh inning.
Prior to the game, McClendon said he wanted to avoid using Rodney because he had pitched in three consecutive games. But the hard-throwing right-hander entered in the ninth and gave up just one hit while working a scoreless frame to pick up his 21st save -- third in the series -- in 23 chances.
Afterward, McClendon said he used Rodney for the fourth consecutive day because he'd been efficient in his past three appearances.
"I told him you're definitely off [Monday]. He wanted to know if he could go back to the Dominican [Republic] and I said, 'No. [Get] on that plane and we're going to Seattle,'" McClendon joked.
Red Sox: Roster decision looming
Manager John Farrell isn't ready to announce his starting pitcher for Wednesday's series finale in Seattle. The decision will demand a corresponding roster move.
"We're not looking to do something prior to Wednesday," Farrell said.
Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz (hyperextended knee) appears ready to come off the disabled after making his last rehab start on Thursday. He could replace right-handers Rubby De La Rosa or Brandon Workman, the latter of whom is scheduled to return from a six-game suspension on Tuesday. Left-hander Felix Doubront's rotation gig could also be in jeopardy.
"Clay is certainly a candidate, but we recognize fully that we have to make a roster move to get him back active to us," Farrell said. "We know that when Clay comes to us, it's going to be in exchange for another pitcher."
But Farrell isn't ready to peg the odd-man out. Yet.
"We get another day further, our pitching plans will start to become a little bit more clear," he said.
• Mariners shortstop Brad Miller went 2-for-4 on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to seven games and lift his batting average to .207.
• Seattle's bullpen entered Sunday tops in the American League with a 2.77 ERA.
• Boston outfielder Shane Victorino received treatment for his strained right hamstring Sunday in Lowell, Mass. He also took batting practice. Farrell indicated that Victorino could return when the Red Sox face the Yankees at the end of the month.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.