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Mariners-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

Every pitcher has an occasional bad start.

Some pitchers struggle in back-to-back outings.

Felix Hernandez is trying to avoid a rarity for him - losing three consecutive starts - as he takes the mound Thursday night for the Seattle Mariners in their season series finale versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

Already the owner of baseball's 23rd all-time perfect game, Hernandez (13-7, 2.67 ERA) has hit a rough patch in losing back-to-back appearances for the second time this season. He has given up 11 runs in 20 hits in those defeats and was roughed up for six runs and 11 hits - the latter matching a season high - in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-1 defeat at Oakland on Friday.

"It was one of those games,'' Hernandez said. ''Every pitch was up. I fell behind a couple of times, well, not a couple, a lot of times and they just made me pay. All my pitches. It was not my day today.''

The last time the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner had a three-start losing streak was to close out 2011. It has happened only five times - including one four-start skid - over his 234 career appearances.

Additionally, Hernandez has given up seven or more runs just 14 times in his career, but two have come versus the Blue Jays, including his most recent outing against them. Toronto reached him for seven runs and 12 hits in six innings April 11, 2011, but the Mariners (69-74) rallied for an 8-7 win.

Seven runs, though, may be a stretch for a Blue Jays team out to avert a sweep after suffering a pair of one-run losses in this series. Franklin Gutierrez's two-run single and Miguel Olivo's homer helped Seattle post a 3-2 win Wednesday night when Kevin Millwood grinded through five innings with a stiff pitching shoulder for the victory.

"It's not the way you want to be when you're out there,'' Millwood said. ''I felt like, for the most part, I could still throw the ball where I wanted to, there was just really nothing on it.''

Toronto (64-77), which was already swept by Seattle in a three-game set at Safeco Field from July 30-Aug. 1, will try to regroup behind Henderson Alvarez (8-12, 4.95). The right-hander ended a personal five-game losing streak Friday at Boston, limiting the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-5 win.

''He was powerful,'' Toronto manager John Farrell said. ''He threw a lot of strikes. He kept the ball on the ground.''

Alvarez beat the Mariners on April 29, limiting them to a solo homer and five other hits in six innings of a 7-2 win. He did not get a decision in his other start against them as a rookie last year.

Edwin Encarnacion, whose two-run homer accounted for Toronto's offense Wednesday and was his team-high 39th, is on the verge of his first 100-RBI season. He is 2 for 10 with one double lifetime versus Hernandez.

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