Any game involving Mariners ace Felix Hernandez against Detroit figures to be a marquee matchup inasmuch as the Tigers possess the past three pitchers to win the American League’s Cy Young Award.
The last pitcher to win it who doesn’t currently pitch for the Tigers was Hernandez in 2010 — and he’s building a strong resumé this year that could result in reclaiming the honor.
Hernandez didn’t face Detroit earlier this season when they came to Safeco Field but will pitch Saturday when the Mariners continue their weekend series at Comerica Park.
He will oppose lefty David Price, the 2012 recipient whom the Tigers acquired July 31 from Tampa Bay as part of the three-team deal that brought center fielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners.
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“It’s going to be a good one,” Hernandez said. “But I’m not facing Price. I’m facing Miguel (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez).”
Even so, Saturday’s game marks a first:
Hernandez and Price, two of the game’s top pitchers, have never squared off against one another. That’s largely because Price has only faced the Mariners on three occasions in his seven-year career.
Another oddity: Hernandez has only faced Max Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner, on one occasion: April 17, 2013 when both got no-decisions at Safeco Field.
Hernandez is 2-1 in three matchups against Justin Verlander, the 2011 winner — but three games were over five years ago before either of them won the Cy Young Award — and all three were at Safeco Field.
Of Price’s three starts against the Mariners, two came earlier this season; He beat the Mariners 2-1 with a complete game on May 13 at Safeco after Fernando Rodney surrendered two runs in the ninth inning.
The Mariners got even in a 3-0 victory over June 9 at Tampa Bay behind Erasmo Ramirez and four relievers. Rodney closed that game out for a save.
Price failed to get a decision in his two previous starts for the Tigers. He is 11-8 overall with a 3.21 ERA in 25 starts.
Hernandez is looking to extend his major league-record streak of 16 consecutive starts of pitching at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs. He is 13-3 with a league-leading 1.95 ERA.
He is also 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 previous career starts against the Tigers, including going 5-1 and 3.00 in seven starts at Comerica Park.
WAR ... HUH ... WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Some numbers from the WAR room.
The Wins Above Replacement ratings is a metric that calculates the number of wins a player adds to his club above what might be expected from an average replacement (generally viewed as a good Triple-A player).
The WAR numbers entering the weekend show Hernandez leading all American League pitchers with a 5.9 rating.
Second baseman Robinson Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager ranked third and fourth among AL non-pitchers at 5.0 and 5.1.
Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout was the AL leader at 6.4, followed by Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson. Hernandez is third overall.
The only other club with more than one player in the AL’s top 10 is Cleveland with pitcher Corey Kluber ranked sixth at 5.3, and outfielder Michael Brantley ranked 10th at 4.9.
Outfielder Michael Saunders resumed his rehab assignment Friday for Triple-A Tacoma after missing a few days to attend the birth of his child. McClendon said Saunders will be play “two or three” more days for the Rainiers before being reevaluated in his recovery from a strained left oblique. ... The current road trip to Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston marks the Mariners’ fifth excursion into the Eastern time zone this season.
Tacoma right-hander Taijuan Walker cracked “Baseball America’s” weekly “Prospect Hot Sheet” at No. 4 after striking out 13 in seven innings last Sunday against Fresno (Giants).
Walker, 21, allowed one run and two hits while rebounding from a dreadful effort in his previous start: eight runs in 21/3 innings at Albuquerque (Dodgers).
The “Prospect Hot Sheet” seeks to identify which of the game’s top prospects are currently performing at high levels. Walker is generally viewed as the Mariners’ top prospect.
It was 21 years ago Saturday — Aug. 16, 1993 — that Randy Johnson earned his first career save by striking out four in 11/3 innings, preserving an 8-6 victory over Baltimore at the Kingdome.
Johnson had only one other save in a 22-year career that spanned 618 appearances for six different clubs. That came for the Mariners in his injury-shortened 1996 season when he pitched four innings against Kansas City.
The Mariners and Tigers continue their three-game series at 4:08 p.m. Saturday at Comerica Park with that marquee pitching match-up noted above: Hernandez (13-3, 1.95 ERA) vs. Price (11-8, 3.21).
Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The series concludes at 10:08 a.m. Sunday. The Mariners then travel to Philadelphia for three games and have an open date Thursday before concluding their road trip with three games at Boston.