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Thursday’s Red Sox-Mariners matchups: Franklin Morales vs. Felix Hernandez

06.28.12 at 8:22 am ET
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Franklin Morales

Thursday night marks the beginning of a seven-game West Coast tour for the Red Sox. Boston hasn’t had a day off since June 18 and won’t get one until July 5, but the workload doesn’t appear to wearing the team down — so far, anyway.  The Sox have won 11 of their last 14 games and, at 40-35, are five games over .500 for the first time this season.

This trip may be a long one, but once in Seattle the Sox have the good fortune of facing a Mariners club that is dead last in its division and ranks in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major offensive and pitching category.

After spending the bulk of his five-plus seasons as a reliever, Franklin Morales (1-1) will make his third straight start. The 26-year-old pitched well in his first two starts, going five innings and allowing two earned runs with nine strikeouts in a 7-4 Sox win over the Cubs on June 17, and giving up three runs (two earned) over six innings with eight strikeouts in an 8-4 win over the Braves on June 23. The latter earned Morales his first win of the year.

Granted, his total of 34 2/3 innings pitched isn’t a large enough sample to make a fair comparison, but it’s at least worth noting that Morales’ 3.12 ERA is best among Sox starters by more than a run. How he fares as his innings increase will be important to watch, as Morales has never pitched more than 46 innings in a season.

Having spent the majority of his career with Colorado before joining the Sox in May of last season, Morales has only faced the Mariners three times, all in relief appearances. The current Mariners lineup has a total of two hits and zero RBIs in just seven plate appearances against the lefty.

Facing off against Morales is fellow 26-year-old Venezuelan Felix Hernandez. After an up-and-down season, King Felix appears to be rounding into the form that earned him the 2010 Cy Young award, going seven innings and allowing just one earned run in each of his last two starts. He’s also been fantastic at home this season, with a 2.52 ERA and 51 strikeouts to just 13 walks in 50 innings.

Overall, Hernandez in 5-5 in 15 starts this season, with an ERA of 3.36, 11th best in the AL. He also ranks sixth in the AL with 101 2/3 innings pitched while his 101 strikeouts are good for fifth.

In his career, Hernandez is 5-2 against the Red Sox with an ERA of 3.55 and 63 strikeouts in 76 innings. The current Boston lineup is hitting a collective .269 off the righty, with 14 RBIs and 40 strikeouts in 162 plate appearances.

Adrian Gonzalez (11-for-36, 6 RBIs), Dustin Pedroia (10-for-28, 1 double, 1 home run, 3 RBIs) and Mike Aviles (5-for-11, 1 double, 1 RBI) have posted impressive numbers against Hernandez.

Red Sox vs. Hernandez (RHP)

Adrian Gonzalez (39 plate appearances): .306 BA/.359 OBP/.444 SLG, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 6 RBIs, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (31): .357/.419/.500, 1 double, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (28): .261/.393/.435, 1 double, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (20): .211/.250/.263, 1 double, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Nick Punto (12): .111/.333/.111, 3 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Aviles (11):.455/.455/.545, 1 double, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Kelly Shoppach (9): .000/.111/.000, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Brent Lillibridge (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Ryan Kalish (3): .333/.333/.667, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Daniel Nava (3): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Mariners vs. Morales (LHP)

Dustin Ackley (2): .000 BA/.000 OBP/.000 SLG, 1 strikeout

John Jaso (1): .000/1.000/.000, 1 walk

Jesus Montero (1): 1.000/1.000/1.000

Miguel Olivo (1): 1.000/1.000/2.000, 1 double

Kyle Seager (1): .000/.000/.000

Justin Smoak (1): .000/1.000/.000, 1 walk

Read More: Boston Red Sox, felix hernandez, franklin morales, Toronto Blue Jays
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