Felix Hernandez

Mariners win 6-4; First in AL West!

By: Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

 

Me: Those Ks are short for the word strikeout.

Daughter: Don’t they mean King for Felix?

M: Well…that certainly makes sense!

D: I think they mean King because Felix is the King of baseball.

 

Truer words were never spoken. Tonight was Felix’s first home start of the season and ROOT Sports led their broadcast with stats highlighting the reign of Felix since he joined the Mariners in 2005. The short version of these stats is that Felix has dominated the league since he first stepped onto big league dirt. The long version is that since his arrival he is first in strikeouts, first in quality starts, first in starts with at least 7 IP with two earned runs or less and third in complete game shutouts. They even created a stat called mega quality starts and since 2010, he leads that category as well. The short version again, Felix is the man. Going against the A’s (again) only solidified the fact that Felix would be dominant once again. See, the King has faced the A’s 30 times in his career coming into tonight’s game and holds a 16-7 record with a 2.60 ERA against his AL West rival. Tonight was a foregone conclusion.

The Supreme Court was in session for tonight’s game as 30,000 fans were wearing the King’s gold throughout the ballpark. The energy of the crowd was palpable even while watching on television and early on it was obvious that he was especially excited for this game as he was consistently getting up to 94 early on. Usually, a dominant Felix will have at least his changeup and fastball working. Tonight, he had his curve biting as well and was even mixing in his slider. There was even a point in the game after Felix threw Yoenis Cespedes a slider and after waving at the pitch for a swinging strike, all Cespedes could do was shake his head with a look of disbelief. It’s difficult enough to prepare for two dominant pitches, when adding a third and a fourth it’s nearly impossible for the hitter.

This was the story for most of the night and while he didn’t strike out a batter in the first he struck out one in the second, two in the third and then struck out the side in the fourth and again in the seventh. In total, Felix finished with 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work. He also didn’t walk a batter and only gave up four hits. This was a night fit for a King and he received a standing ovation as he walked off the field in the seventh to Aloe Blacc’s “The Man”. Fitting, for The Man that is the King of Baseball, go ahead and tell everybody.

***

On to the bullets!

  • Tommy Milone was throwing first pitch strikes and the Mariners were swinging. Abraham Almonte ripped the first pitch from Milone for a double, followed by a bunt single from Brad Miller on the very next pitch and another infield single by Robinson Cano on his first pitch. The simple math, three pitches for three hits to start the game. The last of which scored the first run of the ballgame.
  • Despite the win, the Mariners squandered an opportunity in the first inning with the bases loaded and only one out. They followed with an infield fly ball from Kyle Seager and a strikeout by rookie Stefen Romero.
  • Dustin Ackley clocked in with three hits tonight in four at bats and it looks like his hot streak at the end of last season was real and has continued into this year. His first hit was an outside pitch that he punched the other way through the infield. He then followed with a hard hit double that one hopped the wall and he ended his hit parade with a whoops single over the heads of the infield. Fingers are crossed real tight that this is sustainable, but I like seeing him hit the ball hard and hitting it the other way.
  • The significant scoring came in the sixth when Mike Zunino absolutely crushed a ball from Milone to left for a two run home run. It was one of those shots where the outfielders don’t even move. A no doubter for anyone who was watching.
  • In the same inning Miller hit another home run, his third of the season and this one was a big boy home run. In the cold sea air of Safeco Field Miller hit one to straight away center. An impressive showing of strength. He’s a shortstop!
  • Things got hairy in the eighth, Felix convinced Lloyd Mclendon that he should pitch and then quickly allowed two base runners without recording an out and the bullpen that has been solid up to this point showed signs of weakness. Lucas Luetge in his first appearance of the year walked a batter on four straight pitches to load the bases, followed by Danny Farquhar walking in a run. Then Charlie Furbush allowed a run on a single, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice.
  • Fernando Rodney coming into this season has inspired fear, when he’s on his game he is terrifyingly good. When he’s not, he’s just terrifying. Tonight he was very good. His location was spot on and his changeup when paired with a 96 MPH fastball is simply unfair. Rodney is yet to allow a run in this young season.

The Mariners are in first place in the AL West! They play the A’s again tomorrow. Sonny Gray vs. Erasmo Ramirez.

Felix Felixes, Mariners win

Living in the Portland area, it can be hard to attend Mariners games during the season. Life can be so damned busy sometimes and at other times there isn’t enough money to justify making the trip up to Seattle. This is of course without mentioning that the commute is 3 plus hours and the traffic in Tacoma is never peaceful. So when I do go to a game, there is very little planning that goes into it. I’ll see that I have an open couple of days and make a weekend out of visiting Seattle on a whim. Because of that reason, I very rarely plan a trip around the more interesting teams of the league, never have I seen the Yankees or the Red Sox. The Angels and the Tigers have always eluded me as well. In fact, more often than not I am seeing the Oakland A’s. While they have been successful in recent years, my god they are a boring team to watch live. They don’t have must see starting pitchers or an explosive position player. Their roster is pretty blah from top to bottom. Their blah has produced an average of 95 wins over the past two years to accompany two AL West titles, but that doesn’t do much for their home attendance let alone the attendance when they’re visiting another ballpark. Plus, it also seems that every game they play against the Mariners ends 2-0 or 3-1 with minimal highlight moments.

I say all of this not because I attended another Mariners vs. A’s game (they’re in Oakland, that’s a long drive). Instead I bring this up because it was exciting today. Sure it was a 3-1 game like all the others but Felix was pitching and man, he Felixed the shit out of the A’s.

Like most Mariners fans I make an event out of Felix Day and today was no different. I could have been at Ikea getting lost in the maze of furniture and eating 50 cent meatballs but instead I was camped out in my man cave chomping on chips and salsa, loudly yelping every couple of minutes after another Felix strikeout.

He started out the game strong, his curve was quite obviously dialed in early in the game and he was delivering it sharply to begin each at-bat, stealing a strike in the process. While the royal curve was freezing the patient A’s bunch early in the count, his changeup was making the hitters look silly to end the at-bats. Six of his eight strikeouts were via the changeup and four of them came after just two innings of work, two innings that only called for 20 pitches of which 18 went for strikes. He didn’t surrender his first hit until the fourth and only walked a single batter in 8 1/3 innings.

Yet early on, Felix was matched pitch for pitch by A’s hurler Dan Straily. Straily had six strikeouts through just three innings and was rolling with mostly soft stuff, the nastiest of which was his slider. He generated whiffs on 32.6% (Felix 19.6%) of his pitches that were swung at, most of which came from his fastball that averaged 89MPH showing that he had good mix of his pitches early on. But the wheels fell off in the fifth as those swings and misses turned into hard hit balls. Kyle Seager led off the inning with a double off the wall in left and later advanced to third on a wild pitch and it was an almost certainty that the Mariners would push at least one run across in the inning. Dustin Ackley had other plans though and preferred to drive in Seager and himself with his first home run of the year to deep right. After a fly out by Mike Zunino, Abraham Almonte got on the board for his first home run that was smoked to right, even deeper than Ackley’s.

AlmonteHR

And that was all the scoring that the Mariners would need. Felix got into a bit of trouble in the ninth by giving up a solo shot to Jed Lowrie followed by a Brandon Moss single to put the tying run on base. But Fernando Rodney came in with his Bugs Bunny changeup, saved his first game as a Mariner then proceeded to shoot arrows in the sky.

Game over and a 3-1 victory for the Mariners who move to 4-1 on the season. 4-1 guys!

 

On to the bullets!

  • Last night’s game was cancelled because the A’s grounds crew sucks and didn’t put the tarp out overnight and the infield became flooded. There were discussions to have the double header today but it has instead been scheduled for the series starting on May 5th. Of note, both Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma are expected back by this time. The Mariners are sneaky.
  • It seemed that Zunino was missing on a lot of fastballs and Brooks Baseball confirms that assumption as he whiffs on 28% of the fastballs he swings at.
  • Felix and Josh Donaldson had some words in the sixth in what appeared to be mostly a miscommunication of body language. Either way, after the conversational scuffle Felix struck Donaldson out on the next pitch. Owned.
  • Robinson Cano now has a 5 game hit streak, today he checked in with two hits, both singles. He’s hitting .421 in this young season.
  • Lloyd McClendon communicated his awareness that his outfield defense isn’t very good and has made adjustments late in the game to bring in Michael Saunders. The past few games has seen Saunders spelling Logan Morrison in right field to play the final few innings. Today it paid off as Saunders made three good plays that Morrison would have surely flubbed.

 

Tomorrow the Mariners have a chance for their second consecutive series win as Erasmo Ramirez opposes Sonny Gray.