Rarely have I seen Felix Hernandez as animated as he was tonight.
I don't know. It's possible I just haven't been paying close enough attention. We've certainly seen him animated before, pointing and roaring and generally just doing kingly things when games are going well. But tonight stood out to me. It seemed like he was always doing something or another. In the seventh inning, I think he responded rather emphatically after every single at bat. He pointed and he roared, and to his visible repertoire he added jumping and laughing. This game didn't just feature King Felix the pitcher. It featured King Felix the pitcher, and his accompanying personality.
I'm not sure what it was. Maybe Felix knew he had his best stuff, and was just enjoying the ride. It was clear from the very beginning that Felix was on. Sometimes his breaking balls flutter into the zone and appear almost gentle. Tonight they were sharper than daggers. Alternatively, maybe Felix felt a jolt from the managerial change and was determined to get off on the right foot under new leadership. And maybe it was something else, or nothing else at all.
Seeing Felix behave the way he was behaving, though, put my mind at ease, and alleviated the concerns I'd had about how he'd perform down the stretch. On paper, all the ingredients were there for Felix to coast. The team sucks and isn't playing for anything. Felix's lousy record probably takes him out of Cy Young consideration. He's already signed a big contract. He's had some issues holding consistent focus before. I won't say that I would've forgiven Felix for coasting, but I would've understood. Of all the players in the clubhouse who could back off a little bit over the last couple months, Felix would've made the most sense.
But worrying about a possible problem like that just sounds so silly after watching Felix carve through the Oakland lineup like Ryan Grant through the Seahawks. What tonight's game made abundantly clear is that, while Felix might be very frustrated with the way the season has gone, as soon as it's time for first pitch, all he's thinking about is the game, and all he wants to do is win it. Felix is a proud guy. Maybe the proudest player on the team. And he's got way too much pride to just go through the motions, even as the staff ace for a go-nowhere ballclub.
Whenever he takes the hill, no matter the circumstances, Felix wants to dominate, and Felix wants to win. Sometimes he doesn't do the former. Sometimes he does the former, but doesn't do the latter. That's never pleasant. But Felix can't worry about the past, and every new game is a new opportunity for Felix to be the best he can be.
I don't think we need to worry about any coasting, here. Not from Felix. He'll have his moments, and he'll have his lapses in concentration, but nobody who cares this much about this game is going to stop caring about games the rest of the way. Felix is going to be fine. Felix is going to be better than fine.
- I had a lot of fun watching the Mariners win tonight. I had a lot of fun watching the Mariners win Monday night, too. They say firing the manager helps give the players a kind of fresh start. I think the same might go for fans. I'd seen this team score runs and hold leads before in June and July, but I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it as I've been the last two days.
There's no good reason why the Mariners firing their manager and six dozen other coaches should have any real effect on my mood during a game, but here we are. I guess maybe my brain sees yesterday as the first step in a process. The Mariners are 2-0 since deciding to make a major change.
The human brain just seizes any opportunity it can to cling to a little bit of hope. It's persistent, and it's remarkable.