Felix Hernandez returned from his inspired World Baseball Classic performance to pitch a spring game for the Mariners. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have the fire and intensity he did in the WBC. What he did have was a fantastic start, throwing a full six innings and seventy-three masterful pitches.
The Giants television broadcast was shown on MLB Network with a one-hour delay. Thankfully they had velocity readings for us. Felix Hernandez cannot pitch without the masses curiously—and a little bit frantically—clamoring for his velocity. The stadium in Scottsdale doesn’t have PITCHf/x, so take this for what it’s worth. His fastball was consistently 88 or 89 mph. He didn’t touch 90, but his slider and changeup were in the 82-85 mph range, so there was a nice difference there.
His curveball looked fantastic. It was big, loopy, and sharp. He consistently dropped it in for a strike and made me weak-kneed every time he threw that beautiful pitch. One hit, no walks, and five strikeouts were the totals from his six innings.
Here are all five strikeouts for you to enjoy:
He looked like he had a plan out there, and he was able to execute the plan. Instead of minimizing damage the way he did so often last year, he was ahead of the game and able to prevent damage from happening. That was a Felix that makes watching good pitching fun.
In a nice change of pace, the Mariners offense scored runs for their King. They took their time scoring those runs, so he had to throw during the hitter’s half of the inning a few times to stay loose.
The offensive assault began in the second inning when the Mariners singled a hapless Matt Moore out of the game. Mike Zunino led off the inning with a double and was balked over to third base. Taylor Motter followed with a walk and was wild pitched to second. Following a Ben Gamel strikeout, Tyler Smith singled in Zunino. Mike Freeman struck out, leaving Leonys Martin to drive in Motter with, yes, a single. Mitch Haniger’s single broke Moore’s back, and in came Michael Roth who promptly gave up another single and run to Kyle Seager.
The Mariners picked up their singling game in the fifth inning, getting to Hunter Strickland for four hits, a walk, and three runs. In the seventh inning, Ben Gamel contributed a two-run home run:
- Mike Zunino added two walks to his resume and Shannon Drayer dropped this truth bomb on us:
With 2 walks and a hit tonight Mike Zunino now has more BB's this spring than K's. Leads the team with 10 walks.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 24, 2017
- I listened to the Mariners radio broadcast before the televised broadcast began. Rick Rizzs referred to an easy ground ball as taking a “Sunday hop.” I feel like I hadn’t heard the term before, but it seems strange that I could be a baseball fan for the number of years I’ve been a baseball fan and not run across it. It simply means a ground ball that takes a nice easy hop right into the fielder’s glove. I like this term and I’m going to work it into my baseball vocabulary.
- Danny Valencia, the newly crowned full-time first baseman, went 2-4, scored a run, and drove in a run before he was lifted for a pinch runner in the seventh inning.
- Felix will get one more start before the season begins. He will be scheduled to go only three innings.