The Tigers four-game weekend series against the Rangers is a matchup of first-place teams.

And fittingly, the opener features two of the premier pitchers — Tigers ace Justin Verlander (4-3, 1.93 ERA), who has led the American League in strikeouts three of the past four seasons, against Rangers ace Yu Darvish (6-1, 2.73), who leads all major league pitchers in strikeouts (80) this season and is among the leaders in victories.

"It's a good matchup and it's good for baseball," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's on (the MLB Network except in Detroit) and that's a nice treat."

Verlander struggled with his fastball command his last outing, and lasted five innings. He hasn't hit his stride the first six weeks, but generally is a better pitcher during the summer.

Still, he's managed to maintain one of the lowest ERAs in the American League.

"That (matchup) would be pretty interesting," Leyland said. "I watch (Darvish) on TV now and then. He's throwing really good."

Max Scherzer, who pitched seven innings Wednesday, is looking forward to the matchup.

"Those are two hottest pitchers in the game," said Scherzer, second in the AL behind Darvish with 68 strikeouts. "When you sit on the bench, that's something you remind yourself of.

"(Darvish) is throwing the ball and Verlander's throwing the ball well, so it'll be fun."

Unlike Scherzer, Torii Hunter has to face Darvish, but the right fielder is excited about seeing how the aces match up.

"Those two guys are pretty impressive," Hunter said. "Talk about Verlander, who is a Cy Young and MVP — look at his history. Yu Darvish last year was really good and this year he's smarter. Yu Darvish has some of the nastiest stuff in the game.

"It's going to be not too many runs scored in that game and fundamentals will be key."