No matter how many more times Felix Hernandez takes the mound in his major league career, he will never wear the title "King Felix" more regally than he did Wednesday against Tampa Bay. On a perfect Seattle afternoon at Safeco Field, the 26-year-old Hernandez tossed the 23nd perfect game in major league history, defeating the Rays in a 1-0 baseball and Mariners classic.
Hernandez's perfect game is the first in franchise history, the club's third no-hitter and the second perfect game at Safeco Field this season, following Philip Humber's perfecto April 21 for the Chicago White Sox against Seattle. The Mariners are the first team in major league history to get "perfec-toed" and throw a perfect game in the same season.
"I don't have any words to explain this," Hernandez said immediately after the game. "After Philip Humber threw one at us, I knew I have to throw one. I just have to. So this is for you guys (Seattle fans)."
Hernandez, who threw 113 pitches, 77 for strikes, admitted that he thought about the perfect game throughout the contest.
"It was in my mind the whole game," said Hernandez. "When I came out in the ninth, I was nervous, but I just had to make good pitches. (John) Jaso (his catcher) did an unbelievable job. He called an unbelievable game."
"I thought that if we could get through six innings, we'd cruise," said Jaso. "Felix never struggled. He kept making his pitches the whole game. His curve was hard, with such a big break. A human being can't hit that. But with the stuff Felix has, you sometimes feel like something like this is inevitable. The guy deserved the odds to fall in his favor today."
Hernandez, with three complete-game shutouts since June, including a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium two starts ago, entered the ninth inning with 10 strikeouts. With 21,889 fans on their feet, wild with anticipation, Hernandez first faced pinch hitter Desmond Jennings. On a 1-and-2 count, Hernandez fooled Jennings with a changeup for his 11th strikeout and out No. 1.
The next Rays hitter, Jeff Keppinger, looked at ball one, watched a nasty slider go by him for strike one, and then swung at and missed a high fastball for strike two. On the next pitch, Hernandez induced Keppinger to hit a ground ball out to shortstop Brendan Ryan, who fielded it cleanly for out No. 2.
The last chance, .206-hitting Sean Rodriguez, the No. 9 hitter, looked at a ball. Hernandez missed outside for ball two, then walked around the mound. He blew a slider past Rodriguez to make it 2-and-1, then a breaking ball for strike two. Then, a called third strike. Out No. 3. Perfect game.
Hernandez fanned five of the last six batters, finishing with 12 K's, as the Mariners won their 16th series of the season.
Seattle scored its only run in the third inning on an RBI single by Jesus Montero that plated Brendan Ryan.
Randy Johnson threw the first no-hitter in Mariners history June 2, 1990 against Detroit in the Kingdome. Chris Bosio followed with a no-hitter against Boston April 22, 1993.
"Felix is so good, but today is a special day," said manager Eric Wedge. "You've got to have a little bit of luck, but when it comes to Felix, no doubt he has great talent, but he brings a lot of intangibles. He just has a great deal of confidence in his stuff. You knew he was feeling it and was going to work to finish it off.
"It's exciting for Felix, for his teammates, for the fans that were here, or watching on TV. That's an excitement you don't get to feel on a consistent basis."
Hernandez is just the fourth pitcher to record a dozen strikeouts in a perfect game. Asked after the contest what he could do for an encore, Hernandez said, "Playoffs. We go to the playoffs."Modern-Era Perfect Games
|May 5, 1904||Cy Young||Americans||Athletics||NA||8|
|Oct. 2, 1908||Addie Joss||Indians||White Sox||74||3|
|April 30, 1922||Charlie Robertson||White Sox||Tigers||90||6|
|Oct. 8, 1956||Don Larsen||Yankees||Dodgers||97||7|
|June 21, 1964||Jim Bunning||Phillies||Mets||90||10|
|Sept. 9, 1965||Sandy Koufax||Dodgers||Cubs||113||14|
|May 8, 1968||Catfish Hunter||Athletics||Twins||107||11|
|May 15, 1981||Len Barker||Indians||Blue Jays||103||11|
|Sept. 30, 1984||Mike Witt||Angels||Rangers||94||10|
|Sept. 16, 1988||Tom Browning||Reds||Dodgers||100||7|
|July 28, 1991||Dennis Martinez||Expos||Dodgers||95||5|
|July 28, 1994||Kenny Rogers||Rangers||Angels||98||8|
|May 17, 1998||David Wells||Yankees||Twins||120||11|
|July 18, 1999||David Cone||Yankees||Expos||88||10|
|May 18, 2004||Randy Johnson||D-Backs||Braves||117||13|
|July 23, 2009||Mark Buehrle||White Sox||Rays||116||6|
|May 9, 2010||Dallas Braden||Athletics||Rays||109||6|
|May 29, 2010||Roy Halladay||Phillies||Marlins||115||11|
|April 21, 2012||Philip Humber||White Sox||Mariners||96||9|
|June 13, 2012||Matt Cain||Giants||Astros||125||14|
|Aug. 15, 2012||Felix Hernandez||Mariners||Rays||113||12|