McClendon expects Felix to pitch finale

Minnesota Twins v Seattle MarinersWith the Mariners still mathematically alive for the final American League Wild Card berth, manager Lloyd McClendon said Wednesday he expects Felix Hernandez to make his final scheduled start on Sunday afternoon against the Angels.

“That could change, but as we speak now, I fully expect him to pitch,” McClendon said prior to facing the Blue Jays in the third of four games in their last road trip of the year.

The Mariners currently have Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Hernandez lined up to pitch the final three-game series at home against Anaheim this weekend.

Hernandez gave up a season-high eight runs in 4 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 10-2 loss to Toronto as his ERA rose to 2.34, second in the American League to Chris Sale.

Sale made his final start Wednesday for the White Sox, taking a no-decision after allowing one run in six innings in a 6-1 loss to Detroit, as he finished the year with a 2.17 ERA. Even if Hernandez throws nine shutout innings in his finale, his ERA would only drop to 2.25.

Hernandez is currently second in the AL to David Price in innings pitched at 230 2/3, surpassing the 230 mark for the fifth time in the past six years.

The Mariners ace is 14-6 with his 2.34 ERA and a league-leading 0.97 WHIP. He has the second-lowest opponent’s batting average at .203 and is fourth in the AL with a career-high 241 strikeouts.

Indians ace Corey Kluber is regarded as his primary challenger for AL Cy Young honors. With one remaining start, Kluber is 17-3 with a 2.53 ERA and a league-leading 258 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings with a 1.10 WHIP and .235 opponent’s batting average.

Sale is certainly also in the mix, but he missed time early in the season and has made seven less starts than Hernandez. In 26 starts, the White Sox’s lefty went 12-4 with his 2.17 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 174 innings. He has a 0.97 WHIP and .204 opponents batting average.

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