Felix Hernandez pitched the Mariners’ 1st perfect game and the 23rd in baseball history, overpowering the Rays in a brilliant 1-0 victory Wednesday.
The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner has never hid his desire for pitching perfection. For a franchise on its way to an 11th straight season without a playoff appearance, Hernandez is the one thing keeping fans interested about Mariners baseball.
Hernandez (11-5) rewarded those fans with a 12-strikeout gem on Wed. afternoon. He baffled the Tampa Bay Rays using his pointed curve and blistering fastball to keep the Rays making a guess all day.
It ultimately culminated in the 9th inning when Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings, got pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger to ground out and closed out the perfecto by falling after Sean Rodriguez 2-0 and then throwing 3 perfect pitches.
”It was always in my mind, every game. ‘I need to throw a perfect game.’ For each pitcher I believe it’s in their mind,” Hernandez said.
”Today it happened and it’s something special. I don’t have any words that can explain this. This is pretty amazing, it doesn’t happen every day.”
It was the 3rd perfect game in baseball this season – a 1st – joining gems by Chicago’s Philip Humber against the Mariners in April and San Francisco’s Matt Cain vs. Houston in June. Over half of all perfectos – 12 – have come in the last 25 seasons.
This also was the 6th no-hitter in the majors this season, 3 of them at Safeco Field.
Humber threw his gem in Seattle, then 6 Mariners pitchers mixed to hold the Dodgers hitless at the park on June 8. There have been 7 no-hitters in a season twice since 1900. It happened in 1990 and again in 1991, with Nolan Ryan throwing one in each of those years.
For the Rays, it was an all-too-familiar feeling. This was the 3rd time in 4 seasons they’d an ideal game pitched against them, following attempts by Dallas Braden in 2010 and Mark Buehrle in 2009.
”The one thing I’ve learned is that no-hitters and perfect games don’t mean anything about tomorrow, anyway,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Hernandez’s dominance got stronger as the game progressed. He cruised for 5 innings, and then pitched through troublesome at-bats, delay methods and the mounting pressure of perfection to shut out the gem. Hernandez struck out 12, including 8 in the last 4 innings. He struck out the side in the 6th, did it again in the 8th and hit as high as 95 miles per hour in the 9th.
Two starts earlier against the Yankees, Hernandez tossed a 2-hit shutout, leading Seattle manager Eric Wedge to call it the best outing he’s seen from Hernandez. Suffice to assert, Wednesday was better.
It was actually the 2nd no-hitter this season for the Seattle Mariners- doubling the franchise’s total entering the year – and third total at Safeco Field after the park went more than 12 years without one. After Humber’s perfect game, a 6 pack of Seattle pitchers tossed a mixed no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in June. Football lines