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DET@OAK: Verlander shuts down A's over six frames

Safeco Field was electric Wednesday night, and for good cause, as the game hung in the balance through 14 innings and threatened strikeout records before Detroit sealed up the series with a 2-1 win.

As the Tigers look for the sweep in Thursday's finale, another classic pitching duel could be in the works as two of the American League's strongest pitchers this season take the mound.

Detroit will turn to ace Justin Verlander, who owns a 1.96 ERA after three starts this season. Verlander is 2-1 this year, and the right-hander will have some rough history to overcome at Safeco Field for his fourth start.

When Verlander won last year in Seattle, it was his first victory there since 2008. He allowed just three earned runs with only two walks in that win, but owns an overall 4-4 record and a 4.45 ERA over eight career starts at Safeco.

Seattle answers with Hisashi Iwakuma, who is coming off three outstanding performances against the Rangers, White Sox, and A's this season. He has been one of the most consistent starters for the Mariners, winning two starts with a no-decision while walking just one hitter in 20 2/3 innings.

Opponents are hitting .129 against the right-hander, but the Tigers might benefit from a possible Achilles' heel. Manager Eric Wedge lifted Iwakuma from his last outing partly because he continues to have blister issues on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

"I was having another blood blister over my blister, so that was something I had to think about on the mound," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "But we have an extra day of rest [with an off-day on Monday], so I should be ready."

Iwakuma said his splitter puts extra stress on the finger, but that also has been his best pitch.

"It was a big, effective pitch," he said of the Rangers' outing. "I had good action on it and got a lot of swing and misses with it, so that was a very big pitch for me."

Tigers: Valverde pitching in Minors
Jose Valverde's road back to Detroit bullpen will take a little longer than perhaps he expected. GM Dave Dombrowski wants to test Valverde at a higher Minor League level before making a decision on whether to bring him up.

"At this point, we're not just going to leave him in [Class A] Lakeland and make a decision. Our plans would be to move him up, but the weather has been so bad. We don't want him to go and join the [Triple-A] Toledo club and all of a sudden be sitting there for three or four days in a shortened time period and not pitching because of the weather," Dombrowski said.

"It's a decision for us to make sure he continues to work. He's doing fine. His progress has been fine. We just continue to analyze, and we've worked with him too, wanting to make sure where his comfort zone is."

Mariners: Iwakuma gets comfortable
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen said Iwakuma is a different pitcher this season than when he arrived in Seattle last year. Iwakuma initially was used as a long reliever and racked up two saves with a 9-5 record.

"Coming over here last year he was in the bullpen pitching once every 16-18 days," said Wilhelmsen. "He didn't really have a solid spot and it was only a matter of time before he got in the groove and became a starting pitcher. He's had a full year to get comfortable with everyone and you can obviously tell the difference."

Worth noting
After a nine-game hitting streak, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder has been ice cold against the Mariners. Fielder is 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts on the series.

Iwakuma took a no-decision in his only appearance against the Tigers last year. The right-hander struck out five through three innings and was pulled with one earned run allowed.

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