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ATL@SEA: Felix fans eight over eight frames

Felix Hernandez has already made history. Monday, he'll try to build on it.

The Mariners' ace has made an MLB-record 15 straight starts of seven innings or more while allowing two or fewer runs. He'll put that streak on the line when Seattle hosts the Blue Jays in the first of a three-game set. Drew Hutchison will get the ball for Toronto.

Hernandez, despite his remarkable accolades, is having a career-year in 2014. His 1.97 ERA, 0.88 WHIP -- both best in the Majors -- and 5.81 K/BB ratio are all career bests. Topping his lifetime bests is an even more impressive feat for a five-time All Star and 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner.

Hernandez looked to be in line for his first complete game of the season last Tuesday but was pulled after limiting the Braves to one run in eight innings. He was at just 97 pitches, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was more concerned about a different number: Hernandez's 5.54 September ERA over the past three seasons.

"It was my decision and I'll continue to do that, I'll continue to protect my pitchers," McClendon said. "I'm trying to play meaningful games in September, not have a pitcher throw a complete game in the first week of August. My objective is to try to get this team as far as I can and hopefully that's the playoffs. We have our eyes set on it, I don't know if we can get there or not, but I want Felix healthy, strong and moving forward in September."

The decision to conserve him could pay off in the short term, too, considering Hernandez has had more trouble with Toronto in his career than any other club. His 4.95 ERA against the Jays is his worst against any team and his 1.37 WHIP is his third-worst mark.

The 23-year-old Hutchison had one of his best starts of the season Thursday against the Orioles, coming just an out shy of a complete game. He allowed just one hit --- a solo homer to Baltimore slugger Chris Davis--- while fanning eight over 8 2/3 innings in a 5-1 win.

The righty has a 4.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 23 starts, and his FIP -- fielding independent pitching -- is 3.88, indicating he's been a little better than his ERA would indicate.

"He's still a young kid. He's not physically where he's going to be," manager John Gibbons said. "He's coming off the Tommy John. … I know during the [Trade] Deadline, he's a guy some teams wanted, but I think he is a part of the bright future here."

Blue Jays: Tolleson returns against lefty Price
Though the Mariners are not expected to start a lefty during this three-game set against Toronto, the Blue Jays have their specialist against left-handed pitchers back.

Steve Tolleson was in the team's lineup Sunday against Tigers' lefty David Price after missing three games earlier in the week while his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Sarah, in Spartanburg, S.C.

"I wasn't split on where I had to be. I knew I was where I needed to be [with my family]," Tolleson said. "But I pour my heart and soul into this team, so it was tough to watch them play Baltimore, them having a lefty going for a game and four lefties in the 'pen."

Tolleson entered Sunday hitting .297/.353/.494 against lefties in his career. Against righties, the outfielder has hit just .129/.190/.161.

Tolleson's wife, Baileigh, had been living in Toronto before returning home to South Carolina after the All-Star break. She gave birth to their first child, Claire, in the winter two years ago.

"Offseason babies are the way to do it," Tolleson joked. "That was the plan this time, but you can't always plan everything. It just happened."

Mariners: Prospect Marte promoted to Triple-A
Dominican shortstop Ketel Marte, 20, was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma Sunday. The No. 11 prospect in Seattle's organization, according to MLB.com, hit .302/.329/.404 with Double-A Jackson this season.

The switch-hitting Marte reached the Class A Advanced California League when he was 19 in 2013. He has big-time speed and a slick glove. He doesn't possess much power with just five home runs in 1,392 Minor League at-bats, but he has stolen 74 bases in 357 career games, with at least 15 in each season.

The Mariners hope he turns into a leadoff-type batter with the ability to get on base and create runs with speed while playing good defense. He'll have to start getting on base a little more to do that -- his walk-rate is just four percent this season -- but his quick progression through the system is encouraging.

Worth noting
• Toronto begins an eight-game road trip Monday in Seattle. Entering Sunday, the Mariners and Blue Jays were both a game back of the Royals, who held the AL's second Wild Card spot.

• The Mariners are expected to recall left-hander Roenis Elias from Triple-A Tacoma when they next need a fifth starter.

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