That was the game we'd been waiting for ever since Felix came off the DL.
While the heat forced Felix to leave after just 84 pitches, when he was on the mound, he was dealing. 67% strikes. 64% grounders. Seven strikeouts to one walk. Three hits. He allowed a home run to Murphy, but this one didn't come off a hanging curve or straight mistake fastball - it was a low two-seamer that Murphy would've put off the wall in pretty much any other stadium. And the only reason Murphy even got to bat in the inning was because Saltalamacchia dropped a lucky check-swing single into left in the previous at bat.
It wasn't even just the results, either; Felix's stuff and command were the best they've been in ages. According to Enhanced Gameday, of Felix's 84 pitches, 52 wound up below the middle of the strike zone. Even the high pitches were dropping. Almost everything Felix threw was on a downward angle, which made it almost impossible for the Rangers to mount any kind of sustained rally. Perhaps my favorite at bat of the evening:
I don't necessarily think it was a fluke, either. After Dave pointed out that Felix's slider was dropping like a splitter and had little lateral motion, I decided to re-visit the arm slot issue, and as it turns out last night Felix was doing a much better job of getting on top of his pitches. On the left are captures from a July game against Oakland, on the right are captures from yesterday:
Felix's arm slot was back up around what it was for his first two starts of the season. The result was that his two-seamer had more drop, his slider fell off the table, and in so doing he set up his high four-seamer a lot better. He'd gotten close to the same angle before, and flashed it in the game against Chicago, but last night it was far more consistent. And to go along with the high slot he was also getting better extension and releasing the ball closer to home plate, which is the difference between what we saw yesterday and the Jerry Owens triple last week. The pitch Felix threw Owens came from the same angle, but it was released closer to his ear, which made the pitch hang up. Yesterday he was letting go further forward, and it allowed him to stay down in the zone more often with fewer hanging mistakes.
We'll see how long this lasts, but last night Felix was flashing no-hit stuff that would've shut down any lineup in the league. If he keeps this up every five days, you might as well go buy your playoff tickets now.