He was Old Felix, Classic Felix, Quintessential Felix, many said Vintage Felix. He wasn’t the same pitcher he was years ago and we know he never will be. But when he struck out Aaron Judge in the first inning on a 90 mph fastball, it felt a little bit like he was.
In 2nd the inning, he struck out Matt Holiday:
That strikeout tied him with Rube Waddell on the all-time strikeout list. If you want a real throw back, Rube’s your guy. He pitched between 1897 and 1910, a Hall of Famer elected in 1946 by the Veteran’s Committee. Confident in his ability to strike out batters in an era of slap hitters, he would have his defense completely leave the field during exhibition games. In one real game, he had his outfield come in and sit down on the edge of the grass while he worked his way through an inning.
Felix never had that level of confidence, but up until recent seasons he had an unmistakable swagger on the mound. It was part of what made him so fun to watch.
He pitches differently now. That’s okay. He has had success recently with this new style. Maybe he has heard the talk that the King’s Court with its K-cards and chants of, “KKKKK” is past its prime and he wanted to prove us wrong. His ability to adjust and change is a testament to the competitor he has always been. That will never stop being fun or admirable.
The offense, unfortunately did not adjust to New Felix tonight. It settled back into its circa 2010 ways. New Felix made us feel like we were watching Vintage Felix, and the offense fell in line.
The offense came out of the gate okay. With 1 out in the 1st inning, Ben Gamel doubled against his former team. Robinson Cano hit a liner to pitcher Luis Severino, who spun around to catch Gamel in a rundown off second. Nelson Cruz followed with a single, but Kyle Seager was the victim of strikeout to end the inning and the threat.
Mitch Haniger returned to the lineup tonight, sending a line drive single into right field. He would advance to second on a pickoff attempt throwing error, where he too would be stranded. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings would follow suit. At least one runner would reach and remain on base. The 6th inning would be the only inning in which a runner did not reach base, and yet it wasn’t until the bottom of the 9th inning that the Mariners scored their first run.
Mike Zunino led off with a walk and was replaced at first by Guillermo Heredia. We were all ready and poised for our comeback. After Jean Segura and Ben Gamel struck out, Robinson Cano doubled in Heredia:
We were ready for more, but Nelson Cruz flied out to end the game.
Let’s go back to Felix though, for he is the story of the night. He struck out 9 batters, his highest total of the season. His curveball was that beautiful 12 to 6 Uncle Charlie. His changeup had movement. His slider was working. He pitched the way we have dreamed that New Felix can pitch.
He gave up a solo home run to Brett Gardner in the 6th inning for the first run of the game and the only run he allow in his 7 innings of work. The other 3 runs, charged to James Pazos and Max Povse were due to uncharacteristic errors by Jean Segura and Robinson Cano.
Beautiful and frustrating. It was a familiar feeling Felix start.
Tonight, like every night, Felix is still ours and you can’t have him.