The Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners just treated fans to a pitchers' duel, and runs could be at a premium again in Thursday's series finale.
Justin Verlander takes the hill against Hisashi Iwakuma as the surging Tigers try to sweep the Mariners in Seattle for the first time in seven years.
Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez both struck out 12 and baffled the opposition for eight innings Wednesday before Detroit (9-5) finally broke through in the 14th and hung on to win 2-1. Catcher Brayan Pena drove in the go-ahead run on a bases-loaded groundout, then held onto Prince Fielder's relay throw and absorbed a home plate collision with Justin Smoak to record the game's final out.
The Tigers and Mariners' struggles at the plate weren't just against Scherzer and Hernandez. It was only the second time in major league history that both teams had more than 18 strikeouts, with Detroit fanning 21 times and Seattle 19.
"I'm not much for those kind of records. All I know we are 2-0 the last two nights and that's all that matters, that column with the Ws and Ls,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
The Tigers, who took Tuesday's series opener 6-2, have limited opponents to seven runs and a .176 average during a four-game winning streak. Detroit hasn't recorded a sweep at Safeco Field since April 21-23, 2006.
The Tigers have to like their chances of keeping things going behind Verlander (2-1, 1.96 ERA), who allowed three hits and struck out six over six innings of one-run ball Saturday in a 7-3 win at Oakland.
"He did what he normally does," Athletics manager Bob Melvin told MLB's official website. "He did throw a lot of behind-in-the-count offspeed pitches, which he can do. That's the mark of a good pitcher."
While Verlander has compiled a 0.36 ERA in winning his last four regular-season road starts dating to last year, he's been knocked around a bit during his last four visits to Seattle. Detroit's ace has gone 1-3 with a 5.20 ERA over that stretch.
Verlander, though, has won three of his last four starts against the Mariners (6-10) overall while compiling a 2.67 ERA and striking out 34 in 27 innings. He'll need to be wary of Kendrys Morales, who's gone 7 for 18 with a homer and three doubles in their matchups.
Iwakuma (2-0, 2.18) is coming off an impressive performance of his own, yielding one run and three hits over 6 2-3 innings opposite Yu Darvish in Friday's 3-1 win over Texas.
"We didn't even use his curveball," batterymate Kelly Shoppach said. "I couldn't find a spot to use it, everything else was so good. ... The way he commanded every pitch to both sides of the plate was pretty special."
Iwakuma was removed after throwing just 90 pitches due to a blister on his pitching hand, but he doesn't expect to be hindered Thursday.
"That was something I had to think about being on the mound. But I'll be ready, I have five days of rest this time. I should be ready for my next start," he said.
In his only career appearance against Detroit, Iwakuma allowed one run, three hits and struck out five over three innings of relief May 7.
He'll surely be looking to add to Fielder's recent woes. The slugging first baseman, who entered Tuesday batting .429, has gone 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts over the last two days.
Despite taking the first two in this series, Detroit is 5-10 over its last 15 matchups versus Seattle.