Felix Hernandez has yet to lose a game for the Seattle Mariners this season. Yu Darvish, meanwhile, hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings for the Texas Rangers.
Hernandez aims to become the first Seattle starter in 18 years to win his first four outings, while Darvish could become his franchise’s first with three straight scoreless starts to open a season since 1963 when the staff aces take the hill Wednesday night.
Hernandez (3-0, 2.11 ERA) and Darvish (1-0, 0.00) are among the best pitchers in baseball, and their respective starts to 2014 are only reinforcing that status.
Darvish has been utterly dominant, scattering seven hits in seven innings of a 3-0 win at Tampa Bay on April 6 and carrying a perfect game into the sixth five days later before yielding his only hit in eight innings of a 1-0 win over Houston in 12.
"I was only focused on not giving up runs, so it really didn’t matter to me," the two-time All-Star right-hander said through an interpreter of his chance at a perfect game. "It’s sheer luck, but if I could pitch like this in every game, it would be very nice."
It could also make him the first member of the Rangers/Senators franchise to not allow an earned run in his first three starts since Tom Cheney 51 years ago. He’s also four shy of matching Jon Matlack’s 19 consecutive scoreless innings to begin the 1980 season.
Hernandez is on the verge of becoming the first Mariners starter to win four straight starts to open a year since Bob Wells went 5-0 in 1996.
He also has 30 strikeouts in 21 1-3 innings, ranking among baseball’s leaders. He matched his season high by fanning 11 while yielding two runs in seven innings of Friday’s 6-4 win over Oakland.
"I thought his stuff was exceptional," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He had a great mix of all his pitches."
That hasn’t been the case over Hernandez’s last five starts against the Rangers (7-7), compiling a 7.57 ERA while losing all four decisions.
He had a 0.53 ERA while winning his previous two outings – both at home – against the AL West rival, and both came in his only starts opposite Darvish.
Darvish lost both of those matchups, surrendering 12 runs with 10 walks in 10 1-3 innings. Since then he’s 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts against Seattle (7-6) at home.
He could be in for another dazzling effort since the Mariners’ .230 average is among the lowest in the majors.
Robbie Ross Jr. and two relievers held Seattle to seven hits – all singles – in Tuesday’s 5-0 win after Texas fell 7-1 a day earlier in the opener of this four-game set in Arlington.
Robinson Cano, who had one hit Tuesday, is 7 for 20 (.350) with three RBIs in five games. The star second baseman is also 3 for 9 with a double off Darvish.
Justin Smoak, who has three hits in this series, is 2 for 16 (.125) with five strikeouts against Darvish.
Texas may be hoping Prince Fielder has snapped his season-opening slump after connecting for his first homer – a solo shot – Tuesday. Despite his three hits in two games, the first baseman is only hitting .185.
Fielder, though, is 11 for 27 (.407) over his past seven games against Seattle, but he’s 0 for 5 while fanning four times versus Hernandez.