The Seattle Mariners have surged ahead of Detroit for the AL's second wild-card spot, but now they face the Tigers' prized trade-deadline acquisition -- the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner.
The Mariners, however, have the luxury of giving the ball to a pitcher who is the runaway favorite to win this year's AL Cy Young.Felix Hernandez looks to extend his historic streak and help Seattle pad its lead over Detroit, which will get its first look at David Price in a home Tigers uniform on Saturday night.The Mariners (66-55) have won nine of 10 to move one-half game ahead of the Tigers and take sole possession of one of the wild-card spots for the first time since July 23. They roughed up 13-game winner Rick Porcello in Friday's opener for a 7-2 victory.Detroit (65-55) has perhaps baseball's best starting rotation on paper in Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Porcello, but it's the Mariners' starters that are dominating.Seattle starters have allowed one run or less in seven straight games, matching a franchise record set in June. Since 1914, the MLB record is nine established by Atlanta in 2002.Hernandez (13-3, 1.95 ERA) has entered the record books by making 16 straight starts of at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or less -- three more than Tom Seaver's mark in 1971."I'm running out of words for Felix," manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB's official website after his ace allowed a run and three hits while striking out eight and walking none over seven innings in Monday's 11-1 win over Toronto.The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner is 9-2 with a 1.41 ERA and 0.74 WHIP during his run. In 121 innings since his streak began May 18, Hernandez has struck out 134 -- one shy of Clayton Kershaw and Price for the most in baseball."He is something else. That's all you can say," catcher Mike Zunino said. "He's got the best stuff right now and he's pitching, too. When you have a combination of both, it's pretty hard to score multiple runs off him."That should come as no surprise to the Tigers, whom he has gone 9-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 11 starts against since 2007.Detroit has lost seven of 10 to drop 1 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Kansas City."Obviously, we'd rather be in first place by 15 games, but we're not," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.This will be Hernandez's first time squaring off against Price (11-8, 3.21), who saw his streak of 14 consecutive starts going at least seven innings end Sunday, when he yielded four runs in six-plus innings of a 6-5, 19-inning loss to Toronto.After two starts on the road since being acquired by the Tigers, Price will be making his first appearance in Detroit since coming within an out of throwing a complete game in a 7-3 win for Tampa Bay on July 6.The left-hander has already faced the Mariners twice this season, going 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings, but this Seattle team will have a different look.The Mariners now have former Tiger Austin Jackson, who was part of the Price three-team trade, leading off and Kendrys Morales, acquired from Minnesota on July 24, batting cleanup.Logan Morrison is now the starting first baseman, and he has hit safely in 14 of 15 games, while rookie shortstop Chris Taylor is batting .385 in 18 contests since being called up.Robinson Cano is also expected to play after coming out Friday as a precaution.Miguel Cabrera is batting .400 in his last six games, but hasn't homered in his last 13. His .417 average is the fourth-best against Hernandez among the 96 players that have faced the right-hander at least 25 times.
With Felix Hernandez and David Price facing off tonight...expect these two starters to go deep into the game...
Only 6 pitchers in baseball average more than 7 inning pitched per start this season...and Price and King Felix are 1st and 3rd on that list...
*8+ IP in 6 of last 8 starts
--ESPN Stats & Information
Felix Hernandez throws a changeup an MLB-high 31 percent of the time. He will face a Tigers' lineup Saturday that has three players in the top 20 of MLB in batting average against changeups: Miguel Cabrera (.356, 10th), Victor Martinez (.328, 16th) and Ian Kinsler (.326, 18th).