When you’ve been the face of the franchise for a decade, you deserve to party in style. Felix Hernandez attempted to do so, throwing his 31st birthday bash in Anaheim, California. No, he did not go to Disney Land. Instead, he took the bump to square off with the Angels.
Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger had the first two at bats of the game. As Mariner newcomers, they wanted to impress Felix with their birthday gifts. Segura roped a single into centerfield, and then Haniger hit his second Hani-dinger of the year.
In the bottom of the first inning, Mike Trout tried to blow out the candles on the cake before Felix could. Fortunately, the King beat him to the punch, eventually sitting him down on strikes. The reigning AL MVP didn’t go down without a fight though:
Felix wins Round 1.— Aaron Goldsmith (@heygoldy) April 9, 2017
Most pitches thrown to any batter in his career. pic.twitter.com/aMyUwLxuky
The birthday boy ran into his first bit of trouble in the second inning when Albert Pujols ripped a leadoff double. Felix got ahead in the count 0-2, but Pujols was able to foul off a pair of fastballs, watch a slider miss the zone, and muscle a well-placed curveball down the left field line:
The 10-time all-star would eventually score on a Danny Espinosa single.
The bottom of the third inning presented another challenge for Hernandez. Another leadoff double, this time from Yunel Escobar, came off a change-up that most likely missed its spot:
Kole Calhoun was up next, and he made the Mariners pay with an RBI single to center. Again, Felix got ahead 0-2, but Calhoun fought off a change-up and watched three straight balls to work the count full:
Hernandez got out of the inning without further damage, but his pitch count was already at 58 after three frames.
The last run allowed by Felix came courtesy of a leadoff solo shot from Escobar. One more time, the King got ahead in the count 1-2; however, Escobar fouled off a change, a curve, and a sinker before swatting the ninth pitch of the at bat over the centerfield wall:
Hernandez threw 17 pitches in the three at bats in which he allowed a run. In two of the three, he was ahead in the count and hitters had to foul off at least one pitch before making their mark. Each time King Felix got in a jam, it felt like he was one pitch away from escaping. Unfortunately, those pesky Angels had to rain on his birthday parade.
The Mariners offense was stagnant from innings two through six. Every Seattle hitter appeared to have forgotten it was Felix’s birthday, and used the classic “your present is coming in the mail” excuse to cover up. Danny Valencia sparked some excitement in the fifth with a lead off double, but he was left standing on third base a few batters later.
The seventh inning started similarly to the fifth; a leadoff double from Seager put the tying run in scoring position. A couple batters later, he was standing on third with two outs as Mike Zunino stepped into the box. This was Big Mike’s second opportunity to plate a runner in scoring position. Let’s compare the two at bats.
In the fifth inning, the 26-year old catcher got ahead 2-1, but chased after two sliders in the dirt and was sat down on strikes:
This go around, Zunino was down in the count, preparing for a 1-2 pitch. This time, though, he watched a slider bounce in the dirt, evening the count at two balls and two strikes. He guided the next pitch, a low fast ball, back up the middle for an RBI single, tying the game at three apiece:
For a moment, it felt like all was well at Felix’s birthday celebration. That would change quickly.
Evan Scribner took over for Hernandez to start the seventh and allowed a leadoff single to Escobar. He was able to get Calhoun to line out, but he did so by throwing a fastball right there:
In stepped Trout, who received another fastball in the middle of the zone:
This is what happened:
The Mariners were able bring the deficit back to one heading into the ninth, but were struck out in order in the top of the ninth and dealt their fifth loss of the season.
When I started writing this recap, I was originally going to say that Mike Trout ruined Felix’s birthday. I mean, he even was popping balloons with his mind:
But the more I wrote, the more I realized that Yunel Escobar did the most damage. Regardless of the culprit, the Mariners are 1-5 heading into their final game before returning home to Safeco. Hisashi Iwakuma and Matt Shoemaker square off tomorrow at 12:37 PM, not a moment sooner or later.
Until then, go M’s.