DETROIT, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- David beat Goliath and looked like the Goliath the Detroit Tigers want him to be.
David Price made his first home start at Comerica Park tonight and, as if to emphasize that he was acquired to beat the best of pitchers in important late-season games, he drew as his opponent the best pitcher in the AL this season, Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez.
Price went eight innings, allowed one run on three hits and got his first Tigers win, 4-2. Embattled closer Joe Nathan, in his first appearance since he made (and apologized for) an obscene gesture to the fans, allowed a one-out run in the ninth that brought up Mariners' homer and RBI leader Kyle Seager as the potential tying run. On the first pitch, Seager grounded into a game-ending double play.
Hernandez took the loss as he lasted only five innings and gave up two runs. The evening's drama peaked in the eighth when Seattle, down three runs, loaded the bases with one out for Austin Jackson, whom the Tigers sent off in a three-way trade to get Price.
Manager Brad Ausmus visited the mound, and whatever was said persuaded him to leave Price (104 pitches) in the game. Price fanned Jackson swinging, then got Dustin Ackley to hit into an inning-ending forceout and leave the dangerous Robinson Cano on deck. Price walked off to a huge ovation from the sellout of 43,833.
Hernandez had a historic streak end. In each of his last 16 starts, he had gone at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer. This was the longest such streak by a big-league pitcher since at least 1900, according to baseball's official statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau.
Hernandez looked sharp as he retired the first two hitters in the first. With the count 1-2 on Miguel Cabrera, something strange happened. Hernandez was in his wind-up when he saw that plate umpire Tony Randazzo had called time, evidently at Cabrera's request. Hernandez seemed to spin off the mound awkwardly so that he didn't deliver the ball to the plate.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon barked at Randazzo, and after the inning Randazzo went to the dugout to talk to McClendon.
From that aborted pitch onward, Hernandez didn't quite look like a pitcher on an overwhelming streak.
In the second, J.D. Martinez's single, his steal and Alex Avila's one-out single put runners at first and third. McClendon appeared to think Hernandez had put a called third strike past Eugenio Suarez, but Randazzo called the pitch a ball. When Suarez grounded into a forceout to score Martinez for a 1-0 lead -- the ball wasn't hit hard enough to turn a double play -- McClendon argued some more, and Randazzo ejected him.
The only hit Price allowed in the first six innings was Jackson's first against the Tigers. It was a double to right-center to lead off the fourth. Jackson came around on a flyout and Cano's grounder to make it 1-1.
Hernandez, laboring at 69 pitches through three innings, faced Nick Castellanos to begin the fourth. First time up, Castellanos had struck out on an 0-2 fastball above the strike zone. This time, Castellanos walloped Hernandez's first pitch over the left-field fence for his 10th homer and a 2-1 lead.
Given that lead, Price retired eight straight until Kendrys Morales had a softly struck infield hit with two out in the seventh. Price retired Chris Denorfia, and Seattle had its first runner left on base. Three more ensued in the climactic eighth.
NOTEBOOK: After the game, the Tigers announced they were calling up former All-Star closer Jim Johnson from Triple-A Toledo and sending down reliever Melvin Mercedes. Johnson, 31, was an All-Star with the Orioles in 2012 when he recorded 51 saves. He follow that with 50 saves last season, but was traded to Oakland in the winter. The A's released Johnson on Aug. 1 -- he had a 7.14 ERA and a WHIP of 2.06 in 38 games this season. The Tigers signed him on Aug. 6 and he's reportedly been throwing the ball well for the Mud Hens. Ausmus did not specify a role for the right-handed Johnson out of the bullpen.