Tonight was Félix Hernández’s penultimate start as a Mariner, barring something truly unexpected. With his final two opponents being a 100-loss Orioles team and a near-certain Wild Card-going A’s squad, if you preferred tuning into this one instead, I can’t blame you. We had Saturday against the White Sox. That was rad. But would be it too much to ask for one more King-esque outing before the end?
Tonight, I suppose, it was.
Just three batters and eight pitches in, Félix had coughed up three runs on the back of an Anthony Santander moonshot...
...and let a fourth run cross in the first on an Austin Hays fielder’s choice. He didn’t have a single clean inning, constantly working out of trouble and getting way deep in several counts. Issuing a pair of walks and generating just five swinging strikes, Félix’s stuff looked as lifeless as I’ve ever seen it. The Royal Curve lacked bite, the fastball struggled to hit 90, and the changeup - once one of the most gorgeous, effective pitches in the game - was flat, with little if any real velocity separation. Still, after the nightmare first, Félix held on for the most part, allowing just one more run over his last four innings thanks to a Hanser Alberto solo shot. While we all know pitcher wins are about the most useless stat out there, the fact that he could have had one had the M’s rallied in the sixth (Narrator: They didn’t.) after it looked like he wouldn’t even get out of the opening frame was a small salve.
Was it the worst Félix start possible? Not even close. Was it the saddest? Nah. Was it the most frustrating? Come on now. I frankly was expecting to feel much more emotional about tonight’s game, and I may have if he had had a performance like Saturday’s. But this was fine. This was never going to be his last hurrah anyway. An empty Camden Yards? Please. How about one of the biggest Courts in years for a parting gift?
UPDATE: Thursday's King's Court now stretches all the way to Section 140. That's 10 sections! https://t.co/M2KlH5RUkS— Immense Kyle Lewis Stan Joe Veyera (@JoeVeyera) September 20, 2019
On September 26th, 2019, Félix Hernández will make his 418th - and almost certainly final - start in a Mariner uniform. I can probably count on one hand the number of King’s Courts I made it to in the past eight years - Félix vs. Samardzija in 2014 was the rowdiest and none I ever went to since topped it - but I will be there. There’s not a force on this earth that would have kept me from there. On my 25th birthday, I’ll be cheering on the only King I’ve recognized this past decade, the one constant throughout my Mariner fandom, my awkward high school years, my overconfident college years, my early twenties when I finally started figuring out how this whole life thing works, up until the quarter-century mark of my story.
He’s ours, and you still can’t have him.
Thanks, Félix. Te amamos.
Oh, yeah, some other stuff happened tonight, too.
- Kyle Lewis continued to mash the heck out of the ball, actually giving the M’s an early lead in the first:
While much has been made about Lewis’s obscene opposite field power - and with good reason - this was the first home run he’s hit in the bigs to left. After his struggle to pull the ball with loft and authority was an issue that plagued him all of this season in Arkansas, it was really nice to see him turn on a pitch like that, even if it was a middle-middle fastball. Kyle also poked a double down the right-field line, reaching out to grab a slider off the plate. It was also his first base hit under 100 MPH in exit velo. Man, does he hit the ball hard.
- Art Warren was the first reliever to come in after Félix, and looked quite good, hitting 97 on the fastball and notching his first two big league strikeouts against Chris Davis (okay maybe first 1.5 strikeouts) and Chance Sisco back-to-back. With the bullpen finally resembling something close to Major League quality, Warren should get a few more opportunities in the last ten games of the season, and could open 2020 with the big club. But then again, so could anyone.
- Someone named Aaron Brooks was the headliner tonight for Baltimore after two innings from opener Richard Bleier, and all he did was throw seven one-hit innings to finish the job. Despite not featuring overwhelming stuff, he notched nine groundouts to go with just one walk, and retired the last twelve men he faced. Not a lot of fun to watch! In fairness, though, he had some help against Kyle Lewis in the 9th:
Blah. That’s about all I have left to describe this game. I suppose it was nice they dropped one to the Orioles after the Pittsburgh sweep for draft purposes, but does anyone actually like seeing their team lose? Couldn’t be me. Justus Sheffield is making his penultimate start of the season tomorrow, and again, pitcher wins are dumb, but it would be rad to see him get his first one before the season ended. It’s all about the individual joys at this point, and I’m hoping to see as much of it as possible in these last dying days of the year.