Yesterday afternoon, Felix Hernandez had a flu. Scratched from a start with record-breaking implications, some turned to conspiracy theories. Was this the first white flag in a season where The King's fastball has dipped another couple ticks? How many games would this sickness take from him? One. Just one. Tonight, Felix pitched with a record on the line, one much larger than the final scoreline of a mid-April game.
Coming into the game, Felix Hernandez was on-level with Randy Johnson for career strikeouts as a Seattle Mariner. He needed just one to take the record as his own, and it came. On a quintessential Southern California spring evening, around 6:30 at night with a slight breeze and the temperature sitting around seventy degrees, The King threw a 2-2 change up to Rafael Ortega.
After 7 innings of work, Felix's day is complete. Here's the highlight, strikeout 2,163. https://t.co/lvZRDPlThc pic.twitter.com/5JNbv5afr0— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 24, 2016
Two-thousand one-hundred and sixty-three.
Think about that. Some who wander this site only really know the Seattle Mariners as having Felix Hernandez. His career has so far spanned nearly half of my lifetime. He will end his career, on some long-distant day with Safeco packed to the gills and every one of us standing, cheering until we can no longer make a sound, and with tears in our eyes, with likely every pitching record for this franchise having his named etched next to it. It's hard to appreciate the magnitude of his career. It's made difficult by the lack of leverage. It's made even more difficult by the sheer commonplace of his excellence. He is so continually great that the tremors seem to register less with us. Felix Hernandez is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and he never left us. Never even thought about it.
The other parts of the game, sans the record, were almost too familiar. Felix pitched well to his standard, seven full innings, five hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. What killed him was the long ball. A solo shot by Cliff Pennington in the third tied the game at 1-1. Then, with a 2-1 lead, and a runner on and Mike Trout at the bat in the sixth, a fastball that didn't quite make it to the inside edge was drilled by The Subway Sandwich Slugger to deep (I mean, DEEP) center field. 3-2 Angels. This would prove to be the game winner as Felix would end the game with another L and the M's would ultimately fall to the Angels 4-2.
For his part, Hector Santiago pitched himself out of a few jams and maybe made a deal with the Devil (BABIP) in order to win this one. The four hits he allowed is double what he allowed his last time out, but the M's should frankly have done more in the second with the bases loaded and one out. They'd only push one across on a Leonys Martin sac fly. What will stand out is the seven strikeouts that Santiago managed over six innings. You're not going to win every game, and if anything, tonight was the perfect example of that.
Nothing went fantastically wrong, Mike Trout pretty much singlehandedly won the game for Angels and the M's offense was stymied by Santiago and some unfortunate lineouts. Adam Lind was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double for a second night in a row and that was frustrating as hell, but it wasn't damning. To his credit, Lind was the only Mariner batter to have multiple hits tonight.
Let's not stress too hard on tonight. Sure, the Mariners fall to 8-9, but tomorrow they have a shot to win a third consecutive series on the road and come home 9-9. The road trip has walked many away from the "Same Ol' M's" ledge and the team is legitimately fun from top to bottom. Nelson Cruz left the yard on a solo BIG FLY in the top of the sixth and you could just tell all the fellas in the dugout were flippin' him a little stink. If he heats up, this lineup really starts doing some damage.
Tony Zych and Vidal Nuno combined to work the 8th inning, and when Nuno inherited a runner on first and second with two outs from Zych, Cole Calhoun flicked his wrists and hit a Texas-leaguer into short left field to score the Angels fourth run and really make a ninth inning comeback feel all the more unrealistic. Once again, losses happen. Tomorrow we play the rubber match.
All to say, congratulations to Felix Hernandez, the one who stayed, the one they call King, for now owning the Seattle Mariners All Time Strikeout Record. May the number only rise higher and higher as he pitches years and years of successful baseball for the franchise we all know and (mostly) love. What a treat it is to have him on our side.
No #Mariners pitcher has ever struck out more. Congrats again to the King.https://t.co/cEVsQhxDAX— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 24, 2016