Mariners ace Felix Hernandez knew that his historic stretch wouldn't last forever. His Major League-record streak of seven-plus-inning starts with two runs or fewer allowed snapped at 16 when he lasted just five frames in a loss at Detroit last Saturday.
So what now for the five-time All-Star?
"It's over," Hernandez said. "Start a new streak."
That effort will begin on Friday, when Seattle opens a three-game series in Boston. Hernandez brings a 13-4 record and the American League's best ERA, at 1.99. He's also tops in the league in WHIP (0.87), second in innings pitched (185 1/3), and tied for second in wins and strikeouts (197).
Hernandez was pulled after five frames in Detroit when his pitch count reached 92 and Seattle trailed, 2-1, against David Price. He had taken a hard comebacker off his hip in the fourth inning but said this week that his leg is fine and that he's 100 percent for Friday.
Hernandez is 8-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 15 career starts against the Red Sox, including a 3-1 mark and 2.36 ERA in seven starts at Fenway.
The Mariners have their three top pitchers lined up for this series, with Hernandez followed by Chris Young (12-6, 3.07 ERA) on Saturday and Hishashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.57 ERA) on Sunday. The three have the lowest cumulative ERA (2.50) of any starting trio in the AL.
The Red Sox will send right-hander Joe Kelly to the mound on Friday for his 11th start of the season. He will be looking to recover from a rough Fenway Park debut, on Sunday, when he allowed seven hits and seven runs in a loss to the Astros. This will be his first career start against the Mariners.
Red Sox manager John Farrell considers that last outing a decent one despite the loss.
"Plenty of stuff. Plenty of power. Plenty of action to his secondary pitches," Farrell said. "His command was not as it's been in the first two outings for him."
Mariners: Ackley to return on Friday
Left fielder Dustin Ackley will be back in the lineup for the series opener after taking Wednesday off to rest his sore back.
"It's a chance to give him two days, actually," manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Thursday's off-day. "He's been going at it real hard. This is a chance to get him cleaned up and ready for the stretch run. I just thought we should take advantage of it."
Ackley went 4-for-8 with three doubles in the series with the Phillies and has hit .314 in 31 games since the All-Star break to hike his average to .252. He had started 33 straight games prior to Wednesday.
Red Sox: Craig back in action as DH
Allen Craig was supposed to play for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday night but returned from his rehab assignment a day early and batted fifth as the DH against the Angels. David Ortiz and Mike Napoli were both held out of the lineup; Napoli with back spasms and Ortiz to get some rest.
Craig went 0-for-3 in just his second game since being traded to the club in a July 31 deal that sent John Lackey to St. Louis in exchange for Kelly and Craig.
In his first action with the Red Sox, on Aug. 1, Craig sprained his left foot running out a ground ball. The foot had also given him some trouble last season.
"The injury he had last year was something that was given rest and recovery rather than a repair," Farrell said. "Probably as much to do with [the Cardinals'] stretch into the postseason. I guess it's debatable whether a repair was needed or recommended. They chose the conservative path . ... What he was feeling wasn't a result of the actual previous injury. But does the previous injury still give some instability? That's again, debatable."
The Red Sox will continue to monitor Craig's status from both a performance and physical standpoint through their final 35 games. He hit just .237/.291/.346 in 97 games with the Cardinals this season after batting .315/.373/.457 in 2013.
• All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager leads the Mariners with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs, but 15 of those long balls and 52 of the RBIs have come at Safeco Field, where he has hit .335 this season. He is hitting .318 in five career games at Fenway Park.
• Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday night's game in the fourth inning because of personal reasons. Brock Holt moved to the outfield and Will Middlebrooks took Holt's spot at third base.
Middlebrooks broke up Matt Shoemaker's no-hitter with a two-out double down the left-field line in the seventh inning. He grabbed at his hamstring while running hard to second but stayed in the game.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.