Although it’s been known for a while that the Seattle Mariners would miss the playoffs, there’s still likely to be a lot of emotion in the final game of the year at Safeco Field.
Hernandez (18-5, 2.48 ERA) will be looking to finish the year in a tie for the major league lead in victories. Currently, he’s even with Detroit’s Justin Verlander(notes), who also pitches Sunday, and trails New York’s CC Sabathia(notes) and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright(notes).
The right-hander has made a good case to win his first AL Cy Young. Hernandez has the second-lowest ERA , pitched the third-most innings (232) in the AL and goes into his final outing having won four straight starts and six consecutive decisions.
Hernandez, who went 9-11 in 31 starts last year, pitched 7 2-3 innings against Oakland on Tuesday, allowing two runs in the 6-4 victory.
“He just never gives up, he battles, and he seems to be able to manage any kind of trouble he gets into. It’s a credit to him. … You’re talking about a 23-year-old kid that has matured so much this year,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Hernandez is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five starts against the Rangers (87-74) in 2009. He’s given up three runs in 29 innings over the last four outings against them for a 0.93 ERA.
Sunday isn’t just a last chance for Hernandez to shine. Griffey, who returned to Seattle this season on a one-year deal, may be making his final appearance with the Mariners (84-77).
The 39-year-old has hit just .214 this season, but he’s put on a nice show recently, homering in four of his last five home games and three times during this season-ending homestand, including Saturday’s 2-1 victory.
Neither Griffey nor the club has made a commitment to next season. Griffey, who is fifth all-time with 630 homers, has indicated he would be interested in playing one more year if the Mariners were interested.
“We’re still kicking it around. It’s important that we finish the year out (Sunday) and worry about it later,” he said. “We’ll see. I’m not in any rush. We’ve got a long offseason and there’s going to be some changes. Hopefully, it works out.”
Feldman might have made bigger noise in the Cy Young race if he hadn’t struggled in his last two outings, giving up 11 runs over a combined seven innings in losses at Oakland and Los Angeles.
The right-hander allowed four runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat to the Angels on Tuesday. Feldman had come in 12-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 14 road starts, and he’s tied with Sabathia for most road wins in the AL.
Feldman is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts against the Mariners this year.
“It’ll be a heck of a challenge going against King Felix. But there have been challenges for him all year. I expect him to meet that one,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.