Detroit — It took all of about 10 seconds for manager Brad Ausmus to know David Price was OK to finish the eighth inning Saturday.
The Tigers were up 4-1 and Price had allowed just three hits. But the Mariners had the bases loaded with one out. It was the first time Price looked vulnerable all game.
“I need you to be honest with me,” Ausmus said, recounting the story. “How are you feeling?”
Price looked Ausmus square in the eye and said, “I’m good.”
Ausmus said, “Go get him.”
Price, making his first home start in Detroit, struck out Austin Jackson on a 2-2 slider, then got Dustin Ackley to ground out to end the threat.
“I was good,” Price said after the Tigers closed out the 4-2 win. “And I made sure I looked him in the eye when I said that because a lot of guys might look down and say, ‘I’m fine,’ and the manager might not believe him.
“I stared him right in the eyes and let him know I was fine.”
There was no doubt about it.
The largest crowd at Comerica Park since Opening Day (43,833) showed up and saw Price interrupt Seattle’s Felix Hernandez’s record-breaking run at the Cy Young Award with a masterful performance.
“I knew I couldn’t go out there and give up crooked numbers because of the way Felix has been throwing the baseball,” said Price, who allowed the three hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts. “He’s the best pitcher in baseball right now and our offense did a great job getting his pitch count up early and getting him out of the game.”
Hernandez, who had won his last nine decisions against the Tigers, came into the game riding a major-league record streak of 16 straight starts with seven-plus innings and allowing two runs or less.
That streak is over. He lasted five innings, threw 92 pitches and seven hits, including rookie Nick Castellanos’ 10th home run of the season that had the Tigers up 2-1.
“I have to start a new one,” said Hernandez, who was pulled from the game, the Mariners said, as a precaution. He took an Ian Kinsler ground ball off his hip in the fourth inning, and the soreness got progressively worse.
He said he didn’t think he’d miss a start.
“If you saw the game, you probably know what happened,” Hernandez said. “I was throwing too many pitches at the beginning of the game. That was the game right there — I threw too many pitches.”
Hernandez seemed out of sorts even in the first inning. He was visibly upset when home plate umpire Tony Randazzo granted a late timeout to Miguel Cabrera as Hernandez was about to throw a 2-2 pitch.
Hernandez slowly circled the mound as manager Lloyd McClendon barked at Randazzo. Cabrera, then Victor Martinez singled before Torii Hunter ended the inning with a fielder’s choice groundout.
Hernandez and McClendon both grew more upset with Randazzo in the second when a couple of close pitches were called balls. McClendon wound up getting ejected. The Tigers eked out a run — a single and a stolen base by J.D. Martinez and a one-out groundout by Eugenio Suarez.
Hernandez hit Cabrera in the left elbow with a 2-2 pitch in the third, and after stranding two more runners, his pitch count was at 69. Castellanos blasted a hanging breaking ball into the seats to lead off the fourth, and it was clear this wasn’t going to be a vintage King Felix outing.
“Trust me, it felt great,” Castellanos said. “He’s so dominant with his stuff. He picked me apart in my first at-bat, but I just stuck to my game plan — be aggressive looking for mistakes.”
The Tigers got two important add-on runs in the eigth off reliever Brandon Maurer. Cabrera, who singled earlier off Hernandez, doubled and J.D. Martinez and Castellanos posted two-out RBI singles.
But this was Price’s night.
“He kept the fastball on the corners and he used his backdoor cutter to righties and used it away to the lefties,” Ausmus said. “He mixed in his curve and his changeup, too. He just does an excellent job of avoiding the middle of the plate.”
For the first seven innings Price was virtually unhittable. He didn’t allow more than one baserunner in any inning until the eighth.
“I felt like me and Alex (Avila, catcher) mixed it up pretty well,” Price said. “When I needed to make a pitch, I made a pitch. That’s what it boils down to… This was the most comfortable I have felt in a while, not just since I’ve been here but probably in my last four or five starts.”
It was his first win as a Tiger and it moved them ahead of the Mariners for the second wild-card spot and a half-game behind the Royals in the American League Central.