Detroit — Torii Hunter put it like this:
“We don’t ever want to face Felix; nobody ever wants to face him. You never hear a player say, ‘Man, I really want to face Felix.’ Some guys get the flu. Some guys are like, ‘I feel sick, I’ve got Felix-itis.’”
If there is one pitcher in the American League who could upstage the home debut of David Price at Comerica Park on Saturday, it’s Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Even Price will conceded that.
“He’s throwing the ball exceptionally well,” said Price, who will lock horns with “King Felix” for the first time in his career. “That streak he is on now is incredible.”
There is seemingly no end to the statistical evidence of Hernandez’s brilliance this season. The streak Price was referring to is his major league-record 16 consecutive starts of at least seven innings and allowing two runs or less.
"We have historical-type numbers,” Mariners manager and former Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon said. “We're doing something (as a team) that hasn't been done in quite a while. It's been pretty darn good… Felix Hernandez has a lot to do with that."
His earned-run average is 1.95, which would be the lowest in major-league history since the advent of the designated hitter. His WHIP is .860; opponents’ batting average .191. According to research by MLB.com, Nos. 2-3-4 hitters are 44-for-224 (.196) against him this season.
“I might be feeling a little sick (tomorrow),” Hunter joked.
Hernandez has won his last nine decisions against the Tigers with a 2.68 ERA. In 13 total starts against Detroit, he has a 2.51 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 86 innings. The Tigers have mustered a .233 average against him with just two home runs.
“A lot of it comes down to having to battle,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s clearly one of the best pitchers in the game. He’s got extremely good stuff and he’s not going to give in. As a hitter you have to take the same approach — you don’t give in.
“You battle on anything close. You fight off tough pitches and hope he eventually makes a mistake in a spot you can drive the ball or find a way to get a hit or a walk.”
Miguel Cabrera and Hunter have had decent success against Hernandez. Cabrera, though he hasn’t hit a home run off him, has 10 hits in 24 at-bats with a 1.000 OPS. Hunter has a .319 average against him in 78 plate appearances.
Ian Kinsler has faced Hernandez the most — 91 plate appearances. He has taken him deep four times (with Texas) and batted .247. Victor Martinez (.286) has also taken Hernandez deep.
Price, of course, isn’t exactly chopped liver. He is the reigning Cy Young Award winner, has pitched more innings, produced more strikeouts (205) and complete games (two) than Hernandez.
“It'll be two marquee guys toeing the rubber,” McClendon said. “Sometimes those things work out the way it's planned to, sometimes they don't — so we'll see."
Price knows his work is cut out for him.
“Facing Felix,” Price said, “you have to come right that day. If you give up three runs, you are probably going to lose and your team is probably going to lose. You know you can’t give up any crooked numbers. You have to come focused and you have to come ready and that’s what I will do tomorrow.”
Tigers’ biggest Boyz II Men fan
Price said he is plenty excited to make his Comerica debut Saturday, but he’s not sure where it will rank next to the day he had a chance encounter with the R&B group Boyz II Men in a bathroom.
The first record Price ever bought was by Boyz II Men. The first concert he ever attended — Boyz II Men. He was 9.
“I actually got to meet them in the bathroom (of the concert hall),” he said. “Completely random. I told them how big a fan I was and of course they called me out. ‘Oh yeah? What’s my name?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. I can sing every song you guys sing, but I don’t know your names.’
“It was a cool experience.”
Around the horn
… Ausmus said outfielder Andy Dirks will resume his rehab assignment Saturday at Toledo. It seems unlikely he will be recalled before Sept. 1.
… McClendon was asked what he thought of the Tigers’ chances of getting into the postseason. “I know a lot of guys in that clubhouse,” he said. “And I know they are capable of getting it done. I’d be surprised if they didn’t get it done.”