I'm not sure how it's possible, but somehow Felix Hernandez has been even better thus far this year than he's been over the four years preceding this one. In his seven starts in 2013, he's got a 7.29 K/BB ratio (51 strikeouts, eight walks including one IBB) over 50 2/3 innings. He's only allowed 11 runs and nine earned runs and his groundball rate is 50%. He's been incredible. If you throw out his second and third starts on April 6 and 11, he's been even better. In those two starts, he gave up eight runs (seven earned) and two of the three homers he's allowed since then. In his last four starts he's been pretty much invincible: 30 innings, 35 strikeouts, 20 hits, two walks, three runs (two earned).
The good news for the Pirates is that the Mariners still somehow found a way to lose one of those four starts and that they're countering with AJ Burnett today. Burnett still leads the National League in strikeout rate and he's just one whiff behind Matt Harvey for the outright NL lead in total strikeouts. All of these strikeouts have lead to some short outings for him, but he was excellent against the Nationals last Friday, whiffing nine and holding the Nats to five hits and one run over seven innings.
This should be a fun pitching matchup this afternoon, as the Pirates look for the two-game sweep of the Mariners before heading off to New York to face the Mets in a four-game set. The first pitch is at 12:35. The first strikeout will probably come at about 12:36, and there will be plenty of them to go around after that first one today.