When the middle game of a three-game set between New York and Seattle at Yankee Stadium was rained out on April 30, the Yankees breathed a sight of relief. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pushed his ace, Felix Hernandez, out of the series finale to pitch against Houston in the next series instead.
That postponed game will be made up Monday, and as fate would have it, Hernandez will get another opportunity to pitch in the Bronx. The Yankees may not be thrilled, but Hernandez has relished his time at the new Yankee Stadium, posting a 4-1 record and a 1.18 ERA in six career starts there.
He's also on a hot streak right now. Hernandez (7-1, 2.57 ERA) won his fourth straight start in a 3-1 victory over the Angels on Wednesday and has thrown at least eight innings in each of his last three starts.
Another notable return to New York will be Robinson Cano, who endured a healthy dose of boos after visiting his former home of nine years earlier in the season. Whether fans will take a second chance to boo him isn't as concerning as whether he will play. Sunday marked the fourth straight day Cano was out of the lineup as he nurses a hand contusion. Cano bruised the area between his thumb and index finger in an at-bat earlier in the week.
"Just a bat jammed in there," McClendon said. "It happens to everybody. Some guys get it worse than others."
Cano has hit well this year (.327), but his power in the middle of the Mariners' lineup has started to fade, likely the result of Seattle's spacious Safeco Field. He's hit just two home runs (both in Texas) and is slugging .420 in 52 games.
He, along with a struggling Mariners offense, will face Yankees starter David Phelps, still holding down a rotation spot for the injured Michael Pineda. Phelps, who has one start against the Mariners in his career, will make his sixth start of the year Monday and has pitched at least six innings in his last two outings.
The Yankees will need a shutdown performance from him to help their cause against Hernandez, and Phelps knows it.
"You've got to go out and put up as many zeros as you can," said Phelps. "He's not a guy that's going to give up a lot of runs. But our job as pitchers is to put up as many zeros as we can. If you try to make too much out of it, you're going to get yourself in trouble."
Phelps was still pitching in the Yankees' bullpen when the Mariners came to town in April and never faced his former teammate Cano. If McClendon inserts his All-Star second baseman into the lineup Monday, Phelps knows how dangerous he can be.
"He's one of the best hitters in baseball," said Phelps, later remembering Cano's time in New York. "You definitely notice him being gone, he was not only a great player, but a great guy to have in a clubhouse. He was close with everyone."
He'll try to take advantage of a Mariners team still treading around .500 in the midst of playing 16 games in a row without an off-day, which ends after a two-game set with Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Yankees: McCann working on his production
The Yankees' first free-agent target in a busy winter, Brian McCann struggled mightily in the early stages of his Bronx debut. His .672 OPS entering play on Sunday ranked as the lowest of the 13 big league catchers with 150 or more at-bats this season.
"I feel like I need to get more hits," McCann said. "I just feel like I've been finding the barrel consistently. It's just I need to start hitting a little better. ... Just got to continue putting the barrel on the ball. Eventually they'll start finding holes."
McCann was 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI in Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Twins, and he went 0-for-2 with two walks Sunday. Still, his experience behind the plate has made major contributions to a young Yankees staff looking to attack opposing lineups.
"He's got a good idea of what guys are trying to do at the plate," said Phelps. "That's the biggest thing for me. I know that I can trust him and that he's got a plan going into every at-bat, so it makes it easier for us."
Mariners: Hart still out
Designated hitter Corey Hart is expected to miss about another month after going on the 15-day disabled list May 20 with a strained left hamstring. He's undergoing treatment and has begun riding an exercise bike. McClendon sounded optimistic Saturday when asked about his progress.
"Corey is getting better," he said. "And I say this cautiously, but I think he's ahead of schedule a little bit. When you rip it off the bone like that, it's going to take some time. But he is getting better and the doctors are pleased with his progress."
• An MRI showed more inflammation behind Michael Pineda's right shoulder, and manager Joe Girardi said he's being temporarily shut down.
"I feel sad. I have nothing to do," Pineda said. "I'm keeping my head up, continuing my work and that's it."
• Yankees closer David Robertson is now 12-for-14 in save opportunities after blowing a 2-1 lead against the Twins on Sunday.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.