Justin Verlander eyes his third win of the season on Thursday when the Detroit Tigers try to complete a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Verlander followed up his lone loss of the year with a terrific outing on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics, as he held them to a run and three hits over six innings to run his record to 2-1, while lowering his ERA to 1.96.
"Obviously I would have liked to go longer than six (innings)," Verlander said. "Not executing on some pitches caused me to throw more than I had to."
Verlander has faced the Mariners 15 times and is 9-6 against them with a 3.41 ERA.
Seattle, meanwhile, will counter with Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been the Mariners' best pitcher thus far, going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA. Iwakuma celebrated his 32nd birthday in style on Friday, as he beat the Texas Rangers, limiting them to just a run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"He's outstanding. He's amazing," Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen said. "To do it against a team like that, on his birthday, I couldn't be happier for him."
This will be his first-ever start against Detroit.
On Wednesday, Bryan Pena pushed the go-ahead run across and Prince Fielder kept the lead in tact by gunning out Justin Smoak at the plate, as Detroit eked out a 2-1 victory in marathon 14-inning pitchers duel.
In a game highlighted by incredible pitching performances, which resulted in a combined 40 strikeouts, the Tigers took advantage after Charlie Furbush (0-1) put two runners on to start the 14th inning.
Blake Beavan took the mound for Seattle and the runners advanced on Jhonny Peralta's sac bunt. Pena then got Victor Martinez to cross the plate with a groundout to short.
"I was trying to redeem myself because I struck out with a man on second the last at bat before," Pena said. "I was just trying to put the baseball in play and get a good swing. I was just trying to hit the baseball through the middle, not trying to do too much."
Drew Smyly (1-0) picked up the win after Joaquin Benoit was able to preserve the save in the bottom half of the final frame. Benoit gave up a single to Smoak and two batters later, surrendered a double to Dustin Ackley.
With Smoak chugging around third, Torii Hunter fielded the ball cleanly and got it to Fielder, who rifled the ball to Pena at home plate. Smoak, dead to rights, plowed into Pena at the plate.
"I knew off the bat I was trying to score. They had to make a perfect relay throw to get me. He was up the line, I didn't really know where to go, so I had to do what I had to do," Smoak said.
Pena, though, absorbed the hit and managed to hold on to the ball to end the game.
"I just need to hold the ball and take the hit. My main goal was to hold on to the baseball. It doesn't matter where you're body's going to go, just hold on to the baseball," Pena said. "These guys really deserved this win. They battled the entire day, it was just a team victory for us."
Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Detroit's Max Scherzer set the tone with dominant starts, each striking out 12 batters over eight innings. Hernandez allowed four hits and an unearned run, while Scherzer gave up six hits and one earned run.
Seattle was 5-1 against the Tigers last season.