We’ve seen Felix Hernandez throw some nasty stuff the past few years, but nothing was quite like tonight in the Mariners’ 2-1 victory over the Rangers.
After Hernandez started the game by walking Elvis Andrus, the Rangers were as overmatched as anyone we’ve seen against Hernandez. In the sixth inning, he even had his own dugout cackling in disbelief at the pitch he threw to strike out Andrus for the third out.
It was a 93 mph pitch that broke so far down and in that it almost hit Andrus as he swung through it. Definitely one of those filthy two-seamers that Hernandez throws. That’s what everyone on the Mariners’ bench thought, at least.
“I came into the dugout and somebody asked, ‘What was that pitch?’” catcher Adam Moore said. “I said, ‘Changeup.’ ” They started laughing and said, ‘But it was 93 on the gun.’ I had no idea it was 93, but that’s the kind of night he was having. Throwing 93 with your changeup, then coming back later in the game throwing it 84-85, that shows you what he’s capable of doing in every outing he has.”
Two pitches cost Hernandez the no-hitter. The first was ball one to Nelson Cruz to start the eighth inning. The second was a fastball that Hernandez got too far up in the strike zone. Cruz, ahead in the count with as comfortable a swing as the Rangers had all night, pounded it over the center field fence.
From there it was a matter of settling Hernandez down, and it took both Moore and pitching coach Carl Willis to do that with separate trips to the mound. Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis reached with one-out singles and, with the Rangers threatening to erase the Mariners’ 2-1 lead, Hernandez pulled off his best clutch pitching of the game.
He got Julio Borbon to pop out and Andrus to ground out.
The Borbon out was especially satisfying to Hernandez, who wasn’t happy after the Rangers center fielder tried to drop a bunt in the sixth inning with the no-hitter intact. Hernandez fielded the ball and threw him out, and Borbon left the field to some loud booing by the crowd at Safeco Field.
“You shouldn’t do that,” Hernandez said. “Sixth inning and a guy is throwing a no-hitter, it’s disrespect.”
Speaking of respect, we’ll see what this performance means in Hernandez’s quest to win the American League Cy Young Award. The victory gives him a winning (12-11) record, which could be important to voters who are on the fence. (Note: I’m one of the 28 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America with a vote on the AL Cy Young.)
Hernandez continues to have more impressive numbers in some very key statistical categories. His ERA is 2.35, he’s up to 222 strikeouts, his WHIP is down to 1.07 and his opponents’ batting average dropped four points to .216.
By comparison, the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia (who pitches Saturday against the Orioles) is 19-6 but has a 3.03 ERA, 179 strikeouts, a 1.18 WHIP and .236 opponents’ average. And the Rays’ David Price (who faces the Angels on Saturday) is 17-6 with a 2.75 ERA, 167 strikeouts, 1.21 WHIP and a .222 opponents’ average.
Sabathia and Price have gotten tons of media attention as the top Cy Young contenders, although Hernandez has gotten plenty himself from those who believe victories and even ERA are so dependent on the team behind a pitcher that other statistics are more important.
In that argument, the Angels’ Jered Weaver should be fairly prominent as well. He’s 12-11 with a 2.96 ERA, 218 strikeouts, a 1.05 WHIP and a .215 opponents’ average. He pitches Monday against the Rangers.