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TEX@SEA: Felix fans a dozen in a three-hit shutout

Felix Hernandez has spun some impressive performances in his career. After all, the 26-year-old Mariners ace is known as King Felix for a reason.

But it was his three-hit, 12-strikeout shutout of the Rangers last time out that impressed manager Eric Wedge more than any other, and Wedge has good reason to believe Hernandez can duplicate that success on Thursday against the Royals.

"I've felt good about the way he's been throwing the ball," Wedge said. "He had a few starts there where he struggled a little bit, but he was able to get right back to it. He's made a few adjustments, which have allowed him to keep on line, allowed him to stay balanced over the rubber a little bit better. I think the way he drives the ball to home plate, with his stuff, that's what makes him special."

After a rough patch mid-season, Hernandez has gone on a tear in his last six starts, going 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA, while racking up 56 strikeouts against just six walks. During that time, Hernandez has increased his velocity from around 92 mph on his fastball to 94-95 mph in his past few starts.

"It looks like his velocity has gone up, and that probably makes the movement that much better," said John Jaso, who caught Hernandez his last time out. "It's pretty good to be rising up in velocity midway through the season. He's just coming into his form right now, and that's probably scary for other teams that are about to face him."

Royals starter Will Smith knows how good Hernandez is, and he's also aware of the challenge that faces him because of that. Smith, recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday, will be making his first start since June 4.

Smith, a lefty, was 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his first stint with the big league club, including starts that lasted 3 1/3 and 4 2/3 innings.

"I just went down there, and I talked with the pitching coach, Doug Henry," Smith said. "Stuff had to be changed to get better. We went down there, and we worked on a few things, kept working hard, kept going after people. Things started to turn around for me."

Mariners: Jaso to start in Thursday's finale
• Wedge said he planned on playing left-handed hitter John Jaso earlier this week against the string of Royals lefties, but held him out of Wednesday's game once the Royals previously announced right-hander Luke Hochevar would start on Thursday.

"We'll end up catching him [Thursday]," Wedge said. "They switched the starter. I wanted to run the same lineup back out there again with what we've done the past couple days. That was as much of it as anything. But we will get him in there."

• The Mariners continue to have their way offensively on the road. After another seven runs on Wednesday, Seattle now has a league-leading 245 road runs. That's compared to 126 runs at home, which is last in the Major Leagues.

Royals: Gordon shining in leadoff role
• Outfielder Alex Gordon has excelled since moving into the leadoff spot on May 27. Since then, Gordon is 65-for-183 (.355).

Worth noting
• After a 3-for-5 night on Wednesday, Ichiro Suzuki is 84-for-226 (.372) all-time at Kauffman Stadium.

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