“Félix Hernández records the win over the Oakland Athletics.” How many times have we heard that in the postgame over the years? While the A’s bested him in their last battle, Félix has defeated them more often than any other team over his fourteen years in the big leagues. With a relatively soft schedule ahead of them, it was essential for the Mariners to start May off on a good note, and the King took the mound with a vengeance.
After striking out Matt Joyce and Marcus Semien in order, Félix was faced with an old nemesis in Jed Lowrie. Lowrie, as you may recall, was responsible for the deciding two-run homer the last time Félix squared off against the A’s, and wouldn’t you know, he did a thing again:
That homer was off of a sinker that didn’t sink, and while it wasn’t quite center-cut, it certainly fell in the “cookie” pitch category. Thankfully, Félix dug in and buried a couple of changeups to get Khris Davis swinging, and escaped allowing just the one run.
Félix had a little extra velocity on his pitches today, topping out at 92 and sitting at around 90 on his sinker. He didn’t miss a ton of bats, getting just nine swinging strikes over 101 pitches, but his fastball command looked mostly sharp, and Félix spotted it effectively to ring up Semien in the first...
Joyce again in the third...
...and Chad Pinder to end the fifth.
Félix’s secondary pitches weren’t as sharp as in his last start, though, and the King issued four walks. Only one came around to score, though, as two of them were erased in fine double plays, one a pretty 5-4-3 and the other a strike-em-out-throw-em-out beauty.
Through the first four and a half innings, this game harked back to the Mariners-A’s games of yesteryear. Andrew Triggs shut the Mariner bats down through four, a Mike Zunino RBI double the lone blemish. Things started to unravel in the bottom of the fifth when Dee Gordon notched his third hit (out of five total!) of the night. After Dee swiped second and Jean Segura worked a walk out of Triggs, Robinson Canó hit a deep drive to center that Mark Canha (why is he even playing there in the first place?!) made a “nice” play on, and suddenly there were two outs.
In strode Nelson Cruz.
Invigorated by a fresh batch of runs, Félix was able to pitch into the seventh. Although another leadoff walk to Davis and a double off the bat of Matt Olson ended his day, the King notched his third straight solid start. Nick Vincent allowing both inherited runners to score makes his overall line look worse, but Félix again did a good job limiting damage, and the uptick in velocity we saw tonight was encouraging.
The M’s added a couple insurance runs in the sixth and eighth, both coming from productive outs by Segura. Juan Nicasio again looked dominant in the top of the eighth, working his befuddling fastball from 91 all the way up to 95 over just fourteen pitches. We might never solve the case of Nicasio’s fluctuating velocity, but no matter the cause, his 3.33 xFIP is very welcome.
Edwin Díaz’s command was off a bit tonight, as he walked two and his delivery flew open a few times against the left-handed Olson. With two on and two out, all that stood between Díaz and victory was one Chad Pinder.
Just another ~easy win! The Mariners run differential has broken into the black after tonight at a mighty +1, and the lineup drew five walks against a pitching staff that boasts the second-lowest walk rate in the big leagues. James Paxton takes the hill against the ghost of Brett Anderson tomorrow night, and the Maple Grove will be out in full force in Section 182. The M’s have a good chance to take yet another series, and this month is chock-full of chances to rack up more.