It’s no secret that the Mariners have yet to sweep a series this year. Or, maybe it is a secret, since nobody around the country is really paying that much attention to the Mariners right now, so these things tend to slip by. But the Mariners — in case you were unaware — have yet to sweep a series this year. And that pretty much has to change starting right here and right now against a Chicago White Sox team that has lost seven in a row and can’t hit its way out of the proverbial paper bag even if you soak it for two days in advance.

The Mariners enter tonight eight games under .500, by virtue of last night’s win. If the Mariners hope to salvage this season — and yes, there is still time, though not an abundance of it — they will have to start winning big clusters of games in a hurry. If they can get back to .500 by the All-Star Break, then they will be right where many of us felt they needed to be when the season began. In a position to make a second-half run.

Now, that’s easier said than done when you’re eight below .500. Winning those big clusters of games simply can’t happen without a sweep or two somewhere along the way. Sure, you can hope to win two out of every three in each series the rest of the way, but the law of averages usually doesn’t work so cleanly. As we just saw with the Houston Astros taking down the Los Angeles Angels in four straight, you can usually count on a reverse sweep happening out of the blue someplace and that sets you all the way back to Square One in the “two out of three” scenario without a sweep of your own to keep the pace.

Sweeping will usually involve a solid turn through the rotation. In this case, it will involve a solid turn through three guys. And the Mariners now have it set up just perfectly. Joe Saunders did his part last night with a good outing. Now, the Mariners will have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma going the next two days, at home against a reeling opponent that can’t hit.

In other words — and I haven’t said it often the past four-plus seasons — the Mariners need Hernandez at his best tonight. They need the ace to show up, not the facsimile who grits his way through six innings and gives up four runs. Not the guy who gives up three runs when the Mariners score only two. Not the guy with no command on his two-seamer. They need the guy who is an automatic victory. The guy who gives up three hits and wins a 1-0 shutout if need be. The complete-gamer.