DETROIT — Over the course of a 162-game season, the games and stars align to provide great pitching matchups. With teams setting up their rotations similarly, the chances that teams’ respective No. 1 starters will meet up throughout the season increases, giving fans an added treat.
But Saturday, the pitching matchup at Comerica Park will be something better than great when Felix Hernandez squares off with left-hander David Price.
That’s two of the best pitchers in baseball, who have each won an American League Cy Young Award — Hernandez in 2010 and Price in 2012 — and combined for 10 All-Star selections.
Hernandez comes into the game as the hottest pitcher in the American League and on a run of 16 straight starts where he’s pitched seven or more innings and allowed two runs or fewer. He’s 13-3 with a AL-best 1.95 earned-run average among starters.
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Price is 11-8 in 23 starts with a 3.19 ERA and leads the AL in strikeouts with 205. The Tigers acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline in a three-team deal that featured the Mariners and the Rays.
The buzz about the pitching matchup started a few days ago when the pitching probables were announced and Price was slid into the Saturday spot in place of Justin Verlander, who has shoulder issues.
The buzz continues to grow since both the Tigers and Mariners came into the series battling for the final postseason spot — the second wild card.
“Rightfully so,” McClendon said. “You have two marquee guys toeing the rubber tomorrow. We’ll see. Sometimes those work out the way they are planned to and other times they don’t. So we’ll see.”
It will be the first time they have pitched against each other. Price has faced the Mariners only three times since debuting at the end of the 2008 season.
“Really?” Hernandez said. “I didn’t know that.”
Hernandez didn’t have much to say about it. He avoids the hype of matchups by focusing solely on his own preparation. He admitted he rarely checks the pitching probables or thinks about who is pitching against him.
Usually Hernandez finds out who will be pitching for the other team the day before or the day of his starts. Sometimes it’s sooner if someone tells him.
“It’s doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “I just got to do my job.”
Of course, he knew about the matchup with Price because it’s a been a hot topic on MLB Network and social media.
But Hernandez shrugged it off.
“I’m not going to be pitching to Price,” he said. “I’m pitching against the Tigers. I worry about facing those guys.”
Michael Saunders returned to the Rainiers on Friday night to continue his rehab stint for a strained oblique muscle. Saunders has been in Colorado with his wife since Sunday night for the birth of their second child. He was batting leadoff as the designated hitter for the Rainiers in New Orleans.
“He’ll play tonight and he’ll play the next two or three nights and then we’ll re-evaluate and see where he is,” McClendon said.
Friday marked the two-year anniversary of Felix Hernandez’s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. When asked if he knew what day it was, Hernandez replied, “Of course, I know.”
So he remembered?
“Yeah and I saw a bunch of people posting about it on Twitter this morning,” he said.
• In his first at-bat in his return to Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners, Austin Jackson was given a long standing ovation by appreciative Tigers fans for his time in Detroit.