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Worrying or not worrying about Felix in a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox

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The Mariners dropped Saturday's game to the Boston Red Sox after Felix Hernandez had a bizarro sixth inning.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

First, a statline.

6.0 7 4 4 4 5 2

Then, bulletpoints to describe the sixth inning.

  • Five pitch groundout.
  • Seven pitch walk.
  • Five pitch walk.
  • RBI double on first pitch.
  • Six pitch walk.
  • Run scoring ground out.
  • Ground out.

Peppered in with a visual representation of where pitches were landing during one of the aforementioned bulletpoints.


And finally concluding with the fact that the Mariners lost.

Now seeing as this is a recap of last night's ballgame and not, you know, the abstract one I'm trying to suggest in front of you, it's pretty obvious which pitcher we are talking about. But let's pretend for just a minute that all this data I've presented to you is not in fact talking about Felix Hernandez pitching against the Boston Red Sox yesterday, but is rather an altogether not too subtle attempt at Guess Who with misplaced changeups in place of glasses and fake mustaches.

What I mean by this is not an attempt to poke fun at Hector Noesi, although I do have to admit I kind of miss having at least consistent punching bags around these days. Nor is it a feeble attempt at a magic trick where you look at the numbers and think well by Jove, it surely cannot be our beloved Felix Hernandez we are speaking of! before I rip off the sheet to reveal that exact visage hiding underneath to the refrains of Europe's Final Countdown.

No, I'd like to point out the fact that these results actually mean something quantifiably different with Felix on the mound than they would with anyone else. Five innings of two-run ball followed by a complete breakdown of command in the following frame would have just been Brandon Maurer's on any given Tuesday in July. Back to back walks followed by a gimme double would be Jason Vargas or Joe Saunders just kind of doing their thing, causing you to shrug your shoulders and think well, yeah.

And it's not as if Felix has only produced pure gold encrusted with diamonds and jewels on the outside. He and every other great pitcher have had their fair share of shit sundaes, and claiming anything different ignores the very real reasons why they are good in the first place. No, instead I'd like to suggest that we can both know everything about what is happening with Felix from last night's game as well as know nothing whatsoever about why it happened and what has yet to. I'd like to suggest that the way he struggled is pretty indicative and full of capital-M Meaning, but also may just be completely random and rudderless effect playing out over a 162-game season. You know, a complete refusal to stake a claim and take a side on any of this on a platform designed for the widespread dissemination of ideas. I mean, as Yahoo! commenters repeatedly remind me, I am no journalist.

Nah, last night the Mariners blew it pretty hard, but it seemed for at least an inning that Felix was the only thing that mattered. He has been struggling with leg issues all season, and according to Lloyd's postgame comments, 'tweaked' his ankle in the sixth after getting Panda to ground out to lead off the inning. The trainers rushed out to the mound to check on him, but because Felix' gaze contains the raw power of one thousand dying suns seething with all the collected hate in the known universe, they cowered back into the dugout after he said I'M FINE LET ME DO THIS.

Problem was, however, that he wasn't fine. After trying to settle back in to his usual late-innings groove of throwing junk in the dirt, he suddenly transformed into Roenis Elias. I mean, look at this:


Tossing junk only really works when you're ahead in the count, or at least have room to spare. Felix was able to get Boegarts up to 2-2 on the fourth pitch, but it was pure labor after that, and even then his strikes weren't close to where he is usually capable of putting them. After walking Boegarts, he proceeded to throw three consecutive pitches in the opposite batter's box to start out the at bat to Daniel Nava. I can only imagine at this moment what was going through the air at Safeco, as 45,055 people all silently realized they were all watching a boat slowly start to capsize with the captain calmly fiddling at the controls, assuring everyone that everything was fine, even believing it himself.

Now about my earlier claim. What does this mean? Well do note that Felix was able to get five strikeouts in the process, because he's still Felix Fucking Hernandez. Before his sixth inning meltdown, he was throwing a two run game after giving up solo shots to Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz, which are two things that regularly happen on any given day throughout Major League Baseball. His command had been evading him all day, but he was still able to work through it and minimize the damage in the long haul.

And note that--Felix had been struggling with command and really only unraveled after his leg injury became more apparent. Trusting his guy, Lloyd elected to leave him in the game, for better or worse. King or not, he shouldn't have finished the sixth inning, and despite escaping with only two runs of damage, it was the rest of these bums' fault that he ended up with his first loss of the year.

I don't think we need to be worried about Felix beyond one bad game, and please tell me you would like to hear any other combination between the words Felix Hernandez, Pitcher, Injury, and Ankle. Maybe Felix Hernandez, World Series, Pizza, and New Star Wars Movie or something, but you should take what you can get. No, the fact that his worst outing of the year came because of four walks and four runs not only tells you something about how good Felix is, it may also help assuage your fear that something structural is happening. Instead, he was able to pitch around his poor command. Velocity--that bastard, that hooded spectre of foreboding injury--was and continues not to be an issue for the King. So instead, just chalk it up to a bad day and let's move on with ourselves.

The good? Well those throwback uniforms looked beautiful. Danny Farquhar had his best outing of the year, giving up only a single hit over two innings with three strikeouts. Oh yeah, and Brad Miller hit two dingers. The rest of the team combined for three hits and a good old fashioned 1940's game of baseball down at Safeco Sick's Field Stadium. They get a chance to split the series with the Sox this afternoon, and while we all wish yesterday could have gone differently, I have to admit I think the worst part is that I'm going to be reminded of this bowl of moldy cabbage every time I put on the throwback cap these guys wore in the process.