DETROIT — Any game involving Mariners ace Felix Hernandez against Detroit figures to be a marquee match-up inasmuch as the Tigers possess the last three pitchers to win the American League’s Cy Young Award.
That last guy to win it who doesn’t currently pitch for Detroit was Hernandez in 2010 — and he’s building a strong resume this year that could result in reclaiming the honor.
Hernandez didn’t face the Tigers 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.
“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 had only faced Max Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner, on one occasion: April 17, 2013 when both got no-decisions at Safeco.
Hernandez is 2-1 in three match-ups against Justin Verlander, the 2011 winner — but three games were over five years ago — i.e., before either of them won the Cy Young Award — and all three were at Safeco.
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 5-1 and 3.00 in seven starts at Comerica Park.
Some numbers from the WAR room.
The Wins Above Replacement ratings 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.
WAR is a metric that seeks to calculate 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 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 of the season into the Eastern time zone.
Tacoma right-hander Taijuan Walker cracked Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet at No. 4 after a 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 2 1/3 innings at Albuquerque (Dodgers).
The 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 1 1/3 innings and 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. Pacific time Saturday at Comerica Park with that marquee pitching match-up noted above: Hernandez (13-3 with a 1.95 ERA) vs. Price (11-8, 3.21).
Root Sports will telecast the game.
The series concludes at 10:08 a.m. Pacific time 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.