SEATTLE -- As a kid growing up outside of Seattle, Tim Lincecum probably dreamed of pitching at Safeco Field.
As a star pitcher at the University of Washington, he likely had similar aspirations about pitching against rising Seattle Mariners star Felix Hernandez.
On Friday, Lincecum will get to pitch against Hernandez at Safeco Field -- although he probably hoped for better circumstances.
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The 31-year-old Los Angeles Angels starter continues his comeback while pitching against Hernandez for the first time in his career. He will return to Safeco Field for the first time since June 2012, when he was a part of the soon-to-be-anointed-champion San Francisco Giants' rotation.
These days, Lincecum (2-5, 8.49 ERA) is a fading star who might not get many more chances to prolong his career. He has been hit hard since making a successful Angels debut on June 18, and he struggled so badly with his command the last time out that he issued six walks in five innings.
Despite the growing sentiment that his career is on the verge of finally being over, Lincecum told the Los Angeles Times this week that he has moments when he thinks: "Hey, there's promise. There's potential. It's still in there."
While Lincecum is clearly on the back end of his once-proud career, there is a chance he is not the only fading star who will be on the mound Friday night.
Hernandez (5-4, 3.46 ERA) has shown plenty of signs that he is not the dominant pitcher he once was. His fastball has lost a few ticks, from the mid- to low-90s, and he has gone past the seventh inning only once in his past eight starts. A recent disabled-list stint with a strained calf cost Hernandez a month and a half. He is still one of the better pitchers in the American League, but Hernandez has a long way to return to his perch as an annual Cy Young contender.
This would have been an incredible pitching matchup in, say, 2011. These days, it is not quite as significant.
Still, in a battle of two teams that are quickly falling out of postseason contention, the long-overdue matchup of Lincecum and Hernandez is about as intriguing as it gets.
The Angels (49-59) haven't been in contention since April, and the long season is starting to take its toll. Star center fielder Mike Trout was out of the starting Thursday while feeling the effects of illness, and it is unclear whether he will be back in the lineup for Friday's game. He entered as a sub and went 0-for-1 with a walk in the Angels' 8-6, 11-inning loss to the Oakland A's.
"There's no doubt that we have to look at some point to get the guys that are grinding every day off of their feet at some point," manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday.
Seattle has its own set of health problems, with an overworked bullpen that lost another piece in veteran Steve Cishek on Thursday. Cishek was the Mariners' closer until Monday night, when he served up the game-winning homer less than 24 hours after blowing his sixth save of the season. Cishek was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a hip injury that may well linger through the remainder of the season.
Cishek said before Thursday's game that he pitched through the injury for a while, adding that it started to affect his location.
"It just got to a point where the surrounding muscles were taking the brunt of it," he said, "and I was really having a hard time getting through my delivery."
The Mariners could have used Cishek on Thursday night, when they needed all five available relievers to get through a 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox. Fill-in closer Edwin Diaz, having earned saves on back-to-back nights, got the night off.