Vets Hernandez, Sabathia battle as Yankees host Mariners
Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia own a combined 416 victories, 5,498 strikeouts and 951 starts.
Besides accumulating numbers, the veteran pitchers are in various stages of revamping their pitching styles from being power pitchers to using craftiness to get outs.
Hernandez and Sabathia will be on display Monday night when the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees open a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
It will be the fourth all-time meeting between the pitchers, who debuted four years apart in 2001 (Sabathia) and 2005 (Hernandez).
Since debuting with Cleveland, Sabathia has racked up 3,002 strikeouts and 247 wins. Although he took a loss at Arizona on Tuesday, Sabathia celebrated becoming the 17th pitcher to get at least 3,000 strikeouts when he fanned former Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy.
"Being from where I'm from and being able to accomplish that in the big leagues means a lot," Sabathia said. "So I'll have a perspective on it at the end of the year but now I'm so caught up on the next start."
Sabathia's milestone occurred early in his final season and is part of the last phase of his career, where he has relied more on craftiness than power pitches.
The 38-year-old left-hander owns 178 career strikeouts against the Mariners, whom he is 14-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 29 starts against.
Hernandez entered this season coming off his worst two seasons. He was 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 2017 and then was 8-14 with a 5.55 ERA last season.
This season, Hernandez is 1-2 with a 4.31 ERA as he slowly makes the transition with a fastball averaging 89.7 mph. It represents a slight increase from the 89.3 mph he averaged last season and down from the 92.4 mph he averaged in 2014.
This year, Hernandez is relying more on his curveball by throwing it 34.1 percent of the time and holding hitters to a .212 average (7-for-33) on the pitch.
Like Sabathia was in his last start, the 33-year-old Hernandez enters with a milestone on the horizon. He is four shy of becoming the 36th pitcher to get 2,500 career strikeouts and joining Sabathia, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer as the fourth active pitcher to do so.
"It's kind of the same thing that's happening to me right now," Hernandez told reporters after striking out eight in a 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. "I was a fireballer, but now I have to locate my fastball and mix my pitches. That's what CC does. He's a complete pitcher, a Hall of Famer. Facing him is going to be awesome. He definitely motivated me."
Hernandez has racked up 136 strikeouts while going 10-7 with a 2.98 ERA in 23 career starts against the Yankees. He has 71 strikeouts in the current Yankee Stadium, where he is 6-1 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts.
"He's a good enough pitcher for sure," Sabathia said of Hernandez "He's just got to be totally committed to figure something out. It's hard to tell somebody what you've been doing these last 12 years isn't working no more."
Seattle heads to New York after snapping a six-game losing streak Sunday when Jay Bruce hit a grand slam in a 10-0 win at Cleveland. Mitch Haniger and Edwin Encarnacion also homered for Seattle, which leads the majors with 68 homers.
The Yankees are 13-5 in their last 18 games since April 16. They took two of three from the Minnesota Twins and claimed a 4-1 rain-shortened victory on Sunday when Domingo German picked up his sixth win and Mike Tauchman hit a two-run homer.
--Field Level Media
Updated May 6, 2019