ARLINGTON, Texas — Listen to the principals involved, Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish, and their marquee pitching match-up Wednesday night isn’t anything special.
“Is that a big deal?” asked Hernandez, the Mariners’ long-time ace. “I’ve just got to do my job. That’s all I’ve got to do. I’ve just got to go out there and, if he throws good, I’ve got to throw good, too.”
Texas’ Darvish tried another tack when asked about facing Hernandez.
“I like to be careful with his change-up and his two-seam (fastball),” Darvish deadpanned, “but I’d like to hit his two-seam out of the park. All jokes aside, I’m not too worried about the other pitcher.
“I just have to pitch my game.”
Darvish opened the season on the disabled list because of a stiff neck but returned with a flourish: 15 scoreless innings over two starts against Tampa Bay and Houston.
The last pitcher to open a season with successive scoreless starts of seven innings or more? Hernandez in 2007.
Darvish, 1-0, suffered a small cut on his thumb in his start last Friday against the Astros, apparently from the friction of throwing his curve, but he minimized concern in preparation for facing the Mariners.
“Even when I was throwing,” he said, “it didn’t hurt me. I’ve done this so many times, and it didn’t hurt me at all.”
This is the third head-to-head meeting between Hernandez and Darvish, but the other two occurred in 2012 at Safeco Field. Hernandez was an easy winner both times: 6-1 on May 21, and 7-0 on July 14.
Hernandez enters Wednesday’s game at 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA and leading the majors with 30 strikeouts. And while he fully expects his competitive fire to be fully stoked — it’s not because he’s facing Darvish.
The Rangers have handled Hernandez better than any opponent throughout his 10-year career. They beat him five times last season and own a 20-12 record against him. (That amounts to 23.8 percent of his career losses.)
“Just going up against Texas will pump me up a little bit,” confirmed Hernandez, whose last victory over the Rangers was that July 14, 2012 game against Darvish.
“They’ve got me a couple of times. I’ve just got to make pitches and do my job.”