Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Cy Young winner, has nine career victories against the Mariners. / Wiki Commons
GAME: Tigers (9-5, 1st, AL Central, +1.0 GA) at Mariners (6-10, 3rd, AL West, -6.0 GB). GAME #: 17. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 3rd (Tigers lead 2-0). WHEN: Thursday, 12:40 p.m., Safeco Field. STREAKS: Mariners L 2; Tigers W 4. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
Who knew that bringing in the Safeco Field fences would make it easier for a batter to strike out? For one game, anyway, the shortened Safeco barriers might as well have rimmed the infield. In 14 innings, the Mariners and Tigers combined for 40 batter strikeouts — 21 by Detroit, 19 by Seattle — in Detroit’s 2-1 victory, which ended with Tigers’ catcher Brayan Pena tagging out Justin Smoak in a violent plate collision for the final out.
Among the events that led up to Detroit’s second consecutive victory over the Mariners:
- Mariners pitchers tied a club record by whiffing 21 Tigers. Seattle pitchers also had 21 strikeouts March 31, 1996 vs. the Chicago White Sox and Sept. 28, 1986 vs. Cleveland.
- Felix Hernandez struck out 12 (one shy of his career high and ninth time with 12+), did not factor in the decision, and failed to get career win No. 100 on his third try.
- Detroit starter Max Scherzer also struck out 12 and did not factor in the outcome. The last time two starting pitchers had 12 or more K’s while allowing one or fewer earned runs was Sept. 16, 1992, when Randy Johnson of the Mariners had 15 K’s and former Mariner Mark Langston of the Angels countered with 12.
- The 12 strikeouts by Hernandez and Scherzer marked the first time in Safeco Field history that both starters exceeded 10.
- Two teams striking out at least 18 times each happened only one other time in major league history, according to baseballreference.com. The other was June 16, 2001 when the Padres and Giants fanned 20 times each.
For all of that, the game came down to Smoak’s attempt to score on a Dustin Ackley double in the bottom of the 14th and tie the game after the Tigers had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the inning on a Pena bases-loaded grounder that scored Don Kelly.
“Nobody should lose a game like that,” Pena said.
But the Mariners always seem to lose games like that. It was Seattle’s second loss in a row and sixth in eight games. The Mariners (6-10) are now 6.0 games behind Oakland in the AL West. A year ago after 16, the Mariners were 7-9 and 5.5 games out of first.
The Mariners and Tigers have combined for 65 batter strikeouts in the first two games of the series, and there could be a lot more coming Thursday when the clubs finish the three series with a 12:40 p.m. matinee and another marquee pitching matchup.
Hisashi Iwakuma, who leads the majors in WHIP (0.48), will oppose former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander: A closer look:
MARINERS: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0, 2.18 ERA, 0.48 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Iwakuma, a Tokyo native in his second major league season, both with Seattle, will make his fourth start and first against the Tigers. In Justin Verlander, Iwakuma will oppose his second consecutive high-profile starter. He out-dueled Texas’ Yu Darvish in his last outing. Iwakuma will enter the game with a WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 0.48, best in the majors, and considerably better than Matt Harvey’s (Mets) 0.54 and Cliff Lee’s (Philadelphia) 0.60. Darvish ranks No. 2 in the American League, 0.76.
- LAST START: April 12 vs. Texas, won 3-1; 1 earned run on 3 hits over 6.2 innings; 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 home run, 90 pitches, 62 for strikes.
- LAST VS. TIGERS: May 7, 2012, working in relief, did not factor in the decision in a 3-2 Seattle win at Comerica Park; 1 run on 3 hits in 3.0 innings, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 48 pitches, 35 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. TIGERS: 0-0, 3.00 ERA in 1 relief appearance covering 3.0 innings; 5 strikeouts to no walks, 0 home runs, 1.00 WHIP.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: 7-3, 2.40 in 18 games, including 11 starts, covering 82.2 innings; 73 strikeouts to 27 walks, 9 home runs, 1.13 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Alex Avila (0-for-2, .000), Miguel Cabrera (0-1, .000), Torii Hunter (2-for-10, .200).
- HATES TO FACE: Jhonny Peralta (1-for-1, 1.000), Prince Fielder (1-for-2, .500).
- CURRENT TIGERS VS. IWAKUMA: 4-for-18, .222 BA, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 home runs, .222 on-base percentage.
TIGERS: RHP Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
The 30-year-old Verlander, a Virginia native in his ninth major league season, all with Detroit, will make his fourth start and first against the Mariners. Baseball’s richest pitcher ($180 million), Verlander probably threw his best game April 1 when he defeated Minnesota 4-2. In that contest, he did not allow an earned run and fanned seven. Verlander is 9-6 all-time against Seattle, but just 4-4 at Safeco Field where his 4.45 ERA in eight career starts is nothing special. Kendrys Morales never objects when he sees Verlander: he’s a career .389 hitter against him.
- LAST START: April 13 at Oakland, won 7-3; 1 earned run on 3 hits over 6.0 innings; 6 strikeouts to 3 walks, 0 home runs, 111 pitches, 75 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: May 8, 2012, won 6-4 at Safeco Field; 3 earned runs on 7 hits over 6.0 innings; 6 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 113 pitches, 68 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 9-6, 3.41 ERA in 15 starts covering 103.0 innings; 94 strikeouts to 22 walks, 5 home runs, 1.18 WHIP.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: 4-4, 4.45 ERA in 8 starts covering 54.2 innings; 41 strikeouts, 14 walks, 2 home runs, 1.29 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Endy Chavez (0-for-3, .000), Raul Ibanez (3-for-29, .103 ), Kelly Shoppach (4-for-19, .211).
- HATES TO FACE: Jason Bay (3-for-7, .429), Justin Smoak ( 2-for-5, .400), Kendrys Morales (7-for-18, .389).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. VERLANDER: 40-for-159, .252 BA, 45 strikeouts, 14 walks, 5 home runs, .314 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT HOME STAND: Three vs. Houston , four vs. Texas, three vs. Detroit Tuesday-Thursday.
- Franklin Gutierrez fanned four times Wednesday to lead the Mariners while Prince Fielder whiffed five times to lead Detroit.
- Charlie Furbush (0-1) was saddled with his first loss of the season.
- Blake Beavan made his Seattle debut as a reliever and did not give up a hit — or strike anybody out — in his one inning.
- In the Mariners’ six victories, they are batting .358 (19-for-53) with runners in scoring position. In 10 losses, the Mariners are batting .135 (8-for-59) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP six times in 16 games.
- At AAA Tacoma, Carlos Truinfel needed just five innings to hit for the cycle. He became the first Tacoma player to hit for the cycle since Raul Ibanez in 1997.
- Following the three-game series with the Tigers, the Mariners will play three at Texas and three at Houston before returning to Safeco Field for their first series of the year with the L.A. Angels April 25.
||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0) vs. Justin Verlander (2-1)
||LHP Joe Saunders (1-1) vs. Yu Darvish (2-1)
||RHP Brandon Maurer (1-2) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch (1-1)
||RHP Aaron Harang (0-1) vs. LHP Derek Holland (0-1)