The King is dead.
Two months ago, I would have grasped at every silver lining possible, maybe even conjure one or two out of thin air - I’ve gotten quite good at that over the years! Félix’s first two were perfect; the sinker and curve both had good bite; he also pitched relatively deep on a reasonable pitch count. These are all good, right?
Nope. Not today. Sorry. I didn’t even make any .gifs.
The movement on his pitches was indeed solid, but Félix displayed little to no command of any of them, walking four and getting just a quartet of whiffs. Although he was not helped out by Kyle Seager making a pair of errors - one on an easy double play ball in the fourth and another on a two-out grounder in the fifth - he allowed each member of the Rangers’ lineup to reach base before the sixth inning. Texas bashed three home runs in the last two innings, one each from Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and old, dear friend of Félix’s Adrián Beltré.
Guess we’ve seen the last of those antics for at least a while.
Leaving him in through six was the rational thing to do. With the club’s next off day not until the 16th and a twelve-inning game the night before in which every reliever not named Chasen Bradford was used, today was as good a day as ever to let a starter take one for the team.
That doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking to watch. Félix looked completely lifeless in the sixth, and every homer was hit off of a truly awful pitch. The sinker lost any sort of good movement it showed in the first two innings, and anything that wasn’t well off the plate was meat.
After tonight’s start, Félix’s season FIP has climbed over 5, with a difference of just 0.01 from last year in almost forty more innings. The King’s three-and-a-half year decline has been upsetting the whole time, but no single game - not even the 10-run game against the Red Sox or the eight-spot the Astros put on him in a third of an inning in 2015 - felt worse than this one. In the past couple seasons, his still mostly-solid stuff was overshadowed by a frustratingly ineffective pitch mix, and Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. has done almost everything he can to get him to realize that. Despite Félix finally making an adjustment over the past few weeks - I counted just thirteen sinkers out of 90 pitches total - it hasn’t mattered. The command just isn’t there anymore.
Félix’s last start was just good enough to give him one more shot before Erasmo Ramírez is due back, but tonight all but confirmed our worst fears, those dark thoughts that we’ve wrestled with, rationalized, tried to push away for weeks, months, years. The time has come.
The King is dead.