Former AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez will start at Wrigley Field tonight for the first time in his career when the Seattle Mariners take on the Chicago Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball (8 ET on ESPN). Brian Matusz, who will be called up from Triple-A Iowa, will make a spot start for the Cubs.
Here are some statistical storylines heading into the game.
Hernandez has fared well in his first start at historic venues. In 2007, he threw a shutout in his first start at Fenway Park and allowed just one earned run in seven innings in his first start at old Yankee Stadium that same season.
However, Hernandez usually doesn't get much run support. He's started 23 games in which his team has been shut out, the most in Mariners history. (Jamie Moyer is next with 16.)
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on average he’s had 3.95 runs of support in his career, the 12th-lowest among the 102 active pitchers who had made 100 starts.
Hernandez’s velocity is down nearly 4 mph since 2009. That season his fastball averaged 94.0 mph, while this year it averages 90.2 mph.
That’s also affected his changeup. The difference in average velocity between his fastball and changeup was 5.1 mph in 2009. It’s 3.2 mph this season.
As a result, hitters miss just 29 percent of swings against his changeup, his lowest rate in the past eight seasons.
Overall, hitters are missing just 21 percent of swings against King Felix, also his lowest rate the past eight seasons. (It was 28 percent two years ago.)
Rare start for Matusz
Matusz will start for the Cubs tonight, his first major league start since July 1, 2012. He's made 211 relief appearances since then.
That's not even the longest streak of its kind that will be broken this season. According to Elias, Matt Albers' start for the White Sox on July 23 came after 373 relief appearances since his previous start.
In Matusz's last major league appearance, he came out of the bullpen for the Orioles -- against the Mariners. He faced 10 batters, allowed five hits and a walk, two home runs, four earned runs and didn’t record a strikeout.
In his career, Matusz has a 5.51 ERA as a starter and 3.47 ERA as a reliever.