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Felix Hernandez Fails To Be Perfect Once Again As Mariners Lose To Rays

grown man
grown man

This game between the Mariners and the Rays wound up going to extra innings - and a greater number of extra innings than is usual. Twelve innings is a game and a third, and it took a game and a third for the Mariners and Rays to combine for five runs. But while what people will remember will be the Jesus Montero home run and the Brandon League blown save in one inning and loss in the next, this one started out with Felix Hernandez and Jeremy Hellickson.

The hell with Hellickson. (ed. note: lol) This was start number 211 of Felix Hernandez's career. He started 12 games as a rookie in 2005, and since then, he's been as consistent and durable as anyone in the league, reaching at least 30 starts in every season since. This was Felix's sixth start of 2012. It was his fourth or fifth really good one.

Felix has had no-hit stuff from the very beginning. It's what got him attention as a teenager in the low minors. Do you know how many teenagers there are in the low minors with live arms and blazing fastballs? But Felix still stood out. That's where he earned the King Felix nickname, you'll recall. He pitched 55 innings with Everett. He struck out 73 batters. He was 17 years old, or as old as Bryce Harper was when he was drafted. Wait, I don't know if that comparison says what I want it to say.

Felix was the super-hyped prospect before there was a never-ending stream of super-hyped prospects. Stephen Strasburg's Major League debut was broadcast on national television. Felix Hernandez's Major League debut wasn't broadcast on any television. Those of us with had to settle for a camera angle from high above first base in Comerica Park. It was unsatisfactory. We were pleased to be watching Felix Hernandez, but we wished that we could've actually been watching Felix Hernandez instead of a little man on a faraway bump possibly throwing baseballs, or possibly pantomiming the throwing of baseballs.

Ever since Felix's debut, we've been waiting for the no-hitter. The no-hitter or the perfect game, although we'd settle for the no-hitter if we had to. Every time Felix has taken the mound, I've thought, maybe today. Every time Felix has gotten through the first few innings without a scratch, I've thought, maybe today. The stuff's always been there. The stamina's always been there. Felix fits the mold of what a no-hitter pitcher should look like. Armando Galarraga, Dallas Braden, Philip Humber - nobody cares about these no-hitters or perfect games. They're flukes. They're not performances turned in by dominant players at their most dominant. A Felix no-hitter - that would be dominant, and we've been waiting.

There have been brushes. Or in odd contemporary parlance, there have been flirtations. Felix has spied the no-hitter across the coffeehouse. He's sat down next to the no-hitter in the coffeehouse. He's asked the no-hitter in the coffeehouse what it was reading. Sometimes it's been agonizingly close. So far the no-hitter's always had a boyfriend, or been gay, or something. But still, the flirtations.

Felix is the one guy I feel terrible about missing if I have other plans. I usually don't make plans during Mariners games and when I do I try to forget about the Mariners games, but when Felix is pitching I can't forget about the Mariners game. I'm always checking, half out of curiosity, half because I'm convinced that'll be the day that he finally does it. I remember a game last summer some Friday or Saturday night where I almost had to rush home because Shannon Drayer told me it was looking special. It didn't end up that way, obviously, but there's that ever-present threat.

And yet. This, today, was start number 211 of Felix Hernandez's Major League career. We're still talking about the threat of him throwing a no-hitter. The threat of him doing something historically significant. Because he hasn't done it yet. Hey Felix, you've had 211 starts! Where's the no-hitter? Where's the perfect game? Before the year, you told Harold Reynolds that your best pitch was all five of them, right? Well why haven't you used those five pitches to be perfect? Do you need someone to spell this out for you?

I mean, at some point, you have to stop looking around and start looking within. Felix should've thrown a no-hitter by now. He should've thrown like 15 no-hitters by now. He's got zero of 'em. The closest he came, he gave up a hit to J.D. Drew, and that fucker doesn't even have a job right now. Against Hellickson and the Rays today, the Mariners gave Felix an entire run of support, and they even went so far as to give him an early run of support so he didn't have to spend all game worrying about it. That run should've held up. It's on Felix that it didn't. I mean, that's just being a bad teammate. The Mariners keep giving Felix an opportunity to throw a no-hitter or a perfect game and probably win. Felix keeps throwing those opportunities away. I don't know about you but I'm losing my patience.

I have written for you this tongue-in-cheek nonsense intro because holy shit it happened again, it keeps happening, why does it keep happening. Last time out, the Mariners gave Felix nine runs of support. That was, of course, seven more runs than he'd need, but it was a nice gesture on the offense's part. Today, the Mariners scored two runs in 12 innings. Three Felix starts ago, the Mariners scored one run. Four Felix starts ago, the Mariners scored zero runs. Do you know Felix's career ERA in no-decisions? 2.77. This was the 21st time Felix has gotten a no-decision after a start in which he allowed zero or one runs. For funsies, he's also lost four times after allowing one run.

Not that it's all about getting Felix wins. Felix likes wins - wins are a thing that matters more to them than to us - but that isn't what's most important. It's all about taking advantage of Felix. Taking advantage of having a guy like Felix on the mound. Since 2010, Felix has started 73 games, with a 2.80 ERA. Since 2010, with Felix starting, the Mariners have gone 37-36. That's better than they've gone otherwise, for sure, but the Mariners have been a .500 team with King Felix lately, and that's embarrassing.

This game. This game tonight provided so much to talk about, but it also didn't. Felix was outstanding. Absolutely, positively outstanding. Classic Felix. The Mariners couldn't score and Felix came out. More bad things than good things happened after Felix came out. The Mariners could've won, and they handed a lead to their closer, but their closer needed two pitches to get in hot water and the water never cooled. We began the game happy about Felix Hernandez. We ended the game mad at Brandon League, mad at the lineup, and having mostly forgotten about Felix Hernandez. That's not the point of Felix Day. That's not the point at all.

Damn you, Mariners. You could've won this. You could've put the last two days behind, and you could've ended April exactly .500. Now we all get to go into May kinda bummed out. You know how they say you should never go to sleep mad? I don't know if there's any science to that, and I suspect I know the answer, but we're going to go to bed mad in April, and we're going to wake up in May. This could be a rough May.

Now we're going to get to some bullet holes, being written an hour later than I expected because the Mariners' loss took an hour longer than I expected. You know what's better than three hours of the Mariners losing? Four hours of the Mariners losing. When you dedicate four hours to watching the Mariners lose a baseball game you come away feeling really great about yourself. It's just like with exercise. "Wow, I sure did accomplish a lot!" Think about your life goals. Did you ever want to paint? Did you ever want to write a book? You could've, in all the time you've spent watching the Mariners lose baseball games. Now you're really going to go to bed mad.

  • Felix was incredible for eight innings. He wasn't incredible for all of the eight innings, every single minute, but he was mostly incredible, finishing with nine strikeouts and a run allowed. The four walks might catch your eye, but more important than four walks are 71 strikes out of 106 pitches. This was a brilliant Felix stat line. He threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. He punched out nine batters, although not literally, but, someday. The Rays managed all of one line drive and put the overwhelming majority of their balls in play on the ground. You know, just Felix being Felix, answering any lingering questions one might've had after his two-strikeout outing last time.

    We've had some worries about Felix early this season. Some worries that I feel were legitimate, given Felix's reduced velocity. But we've also been lucky, because the results were still there. Felix was dominant in spring. He's carried that over into the season. In San Francisco, Tim Lincecum's velocity is down, and his ERA is way up. His ERA shouldn't be as high as it is, but the point is that Giants fans have it worse than we do. They have more reason to be worried about Lincecum than we have to be worried about Felix. We don't really have any reason to be worried about Felix, now that he's established that he can still generate the numbers. He's Felix. You're safe to resume taking him for granted, not that you should. Don't take Felix for granted. Don't take anything you love for granted. Got a partner or a spouse? Tell that person you love that person, right now! Take a minute to think about your three favorite qualities that person has! These things are so precious.

  • After Felix retired the first two batters in the bottom of the fifth, he walked Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena hit an automatic double. That brought up Elliot Johnson with two runners in scoring position. Johnson fell behind 1-and-2, and then on the fourth pitch, he inexplicably attempted a bunt and bunted foul for an inning-ending bunt-strikeout. Maybe Elliot Johnson had the Chris Gimenez strained oblique excuse but more likely I think is that Elliot Johnson is a total nimrod or so bad of a hitter that he thought "why don't I just do this and look stupid instead of doing the normal thing and looking stupid." Considering Elliot Johnson won the game in the bottom of the 12th I'm going with total nimrod.

    I never really think about it but it's weird to me that a foul bunt with two strikes goes in the books as a strikeout. I mean, it obviously has to count as a strike instead of as a foul, or else some at-bats would last forever, but why not give these things their own designation? So what if it would be used infrequently? Hisashi Iwakuma is used infrequently. That doesn't mean we should just start referring to him as Steve Delabar.

  • One of the Mariners' rare glorious chances to score came in the top of the ninth, when Michael Saunders batted against Fernando Rodney with one out and men on the corners. Rather than swing away against a righty, Saunders attempted a first-pitch bunt, but not a first-pitch squeeze bunt. Just a regular bunt, and when Munenori Kawasaki attempted to score, he was tagged out, although after seeing replays I'm not sure he was tagged out.

    At first I figured it was a safety squeeze and that the call came from the dugout. Later it was revealed that Saunders did it on his own because he wasn't seeing the ball well today. That seems like a decent excuse to bunt in that situation, but I probably would've, I don't know, let the manager know or something, so he isn't caught off guard when I bunt a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Not that hindsight is any good, but the Mariners would've scored there had Eric Wedge called for a squeeze.

    I'm interested in what Saunders means when he says he wasn't seeing the ball well, because I'm interested in weird-ass park effects, but this might not be a weird-ass park effect. It might've just been a bad day for Michael Saunders.

  • Miguel Olivo injured himself pretty badly attempting a defensive play in the late innings. He's a lock to go on the disabled list, and while Olivo's a strong and durable son of a bitch, he could be out for quite some time. He'll need to undergo further examination. It sounds to me like the Mariners plan to go with Jesus Montero and John Jaso behind the plate, instead of Montero, Jaso, and Guillermo Quiroz. This makes me happy. The Olivo injury doesn't make me happy, because performance reasons aside I quite like my understanding of Miguel Olivo as a person and I'd never wish him this kind of pain, but given the Olivo injury, I'm happier with the Mariners recalling Mike Carp than with the Mariners promoting Guillermo Quiroz.

    Just as Adam Moore injured himself that one time just as he was warming up, Olivo's injury comes during an eight-game hitting streak. I know an eight-game hitting streak isn't very impressive but it's impressive for Miguel Olivo. Miguel Olivo's career-long hitting streak is ten games. He's done that twice. Eight games is the sixth-longest streak of his career.

    It was Olivo who put the Mariners up in the second inning. You remember that, there was a second inning in this game. The Rays were up to their shifty business in the infield:


    Then Olivo got a high cutter right where Hellickson wanted to put it and blasted it over the shift and out to left-center. I don't know why more batters don't do this against Tampa Bay's shifts. If you don't think you can hit the ball through the shift, just hit a home run, it's pretty simple.

  • Olivo got hurt in the bottom of the tenth. He was replaced behind the plate by Jesus Montero. With two outs and a runner on third in the bottom of the tenth, Montero couldn't glove an outside changeup from Tom Wilhelmsen, and the ball rolled away from him. Ben Zobrist stayed at third instead of trying to score, so the failed catch didn't matter, but had Ben Zobrist scored, we might've heard all about how this is why Olivo gets so many innings back there, without any hint of irony.

  • The good news before the bad news was Montero's solo home run in the top of the 11th. Prior to that it had been a very quiet night for Montero, but power bats can un-quiet a night in a flash. This is a pitch that Montero drove out to right-center field:


    I think a lot of the time, at least for now, we're going to think that Montero doesn't look very good. Then every so often we're going to be blown away by the ease with which he can mash a dinger. This dinger came out of nowhere and it turned a disappointing 0-for-4 into an encouraging 1-for-5. God, I love dingers. I can't believe how long we went without dingers.

More Mariners/Rays baseball tomorrow. It'll start at the same time and hopefully it'll end much much sooner. I'm not going to look up the starting pitchers because I've forgotten the starting pitchers and I like it this way. If I look up the starting pitchers I'll be reminded of how much worse the next Mariners starting pitcher is than Felix Hernandez. This way, without knowing, I can't be certain. Once you understand how to trick your own brain life gets to be a hell of a lot more wonderful.