UPDATE: Isn’t it fitting that it took the Mariners 34 years to reach perfection, and it was achieved by number 34 himself?
Did you know that Felix Hernandez once struck out the side on 9 straight pitches?
Did you know that Felix Hernandez leads all Mariners starting pitchers in ERA?
Did you know that Felix Hernandez hit a Grand Slam of Johan Santana?
Did you know that King Felix has 21 complete games, 7 shutouts, 4 2-hitters, and 1 1-hitter?
Did you know that in 34 years no pitcher dawning the Seattle Mariners uniform had ever crafted a perfect game… that is until today.
Euphoria: a feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being sometimes exaggerated in pathological states as mania.
I can find no other definition that truly captures the events that took place in Seattle Washington this afternoon. To my great disappointment I was unable to watch this game live. I– like most of you– have a job and unfortunately many of the Seattle fan base missed this game as it unfolded. The Mariners never could have known this, but this turned out to be one terribly misplaced matinee. I recieved a text as the game came to a close that simply stated “The King just reached perfection”. I rush of thoughts, visions, and confusion flooded my mind until finally, the words truly sunk in. Then, just like a fan boy who was unable to go to the midnight showing of his favorite movie series, I avoiding anything that could possibly connect me to the world. I hid from phones, computers, and the overly talkative mouths of people. Anything that would ruin the specifics of this magnificent pitching performance. I was going to watch this game in its entirety, even if I had to stay up all night to do so.
I will never regret spending my evening witnessing history.
From a pure visual standpoint, with no math, charts, or graphics to aid the argument, it didn’t appear as thought Felix brought his best stuff through the first 3 innings. He wasn’t necessarily overpowering anyone and he certainly didn’t have the strikeout pitch working. From the 5th inning on however, we saw a different man. Suddenly a more filthy, nasty Felix emerged and there wasn’t a soul tuning in that didn’t realize it. Twenty one thousand fans were going to watch history go down right before there very eyes and they all knew it. He was in control, striking out the side twice, and completely carving through the Rays like a hot blade through butter. He was dominating in every sense of the word. While not all no-hitters and perfect games are alike, most include some sort of extraordinary defensive play that saves the game; a play that keeps the gem intact. But not today, no such play occurred. This game belonged to Felix, and he wasn’t going to allow his defenders to be put in that situation.
As the Felix trotted out to the hill for the ninth inning I felt a knot swell up in my stomach. I knew the outcome of the game, I knew what was about to happen. But I still felt the excitement, and the anticipation of watching it live. It was exhilarating, a true adrenaline injection. I can’t imagine what Desmond Jennings could have been thinking as he scooted anxiously into the batters box to kick off the ninth. Confidence is one thing, but being asked to face one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball with a perfect game on the line… that’s one hellishly tough task. Like those who battled before him, he succumbed to defeat against the advanced weaponry that is Felix and his off speed pitches. Keppinger’s mental fortitude was also destined to suffer a blow as he was asked to break up the perfect game. As he rolled the pitch over to Ryan, fans held their breath on possibly one of the most routine plays a short stop can make. The last pitch summed up the game perfectly, no pun intended. Sean Rodriguez froze on a knee high changeup, which beautifully cemented the Jaso/Felix game plan from inning number one: Dominate without the relying on the fastball. It was over; the pinnacle of the pitching dream. Felix admited that he thinks about it every time he assumes the mound, he wanted this no only for himself, but for his fans. Having this masterpiece unfold in the presence of his court, may just be the second best thing to actually having his family there.
The celebration was beyond endearing and perhaps my favorite moment of the night. As Felix realized the umpire was signaling strike three he whirled around throwing his hands in the air, bellowing a Felix-like roar. It was something many of us have imagined since the day the Mariners promoted him from AAA Tacoma back in 2005. The game was of course a thing of beauty, but these reactions give us a glimpse into who these players really are. Which players are close, who is the most excitable, who can jump the highest, etc. Tonight we saw Felix Hernandez and John Jaso grow a little bit closer, and perhaps the entire team was unified under this performance.
Today we witnessed a transformation. The pitchers mound was the King’s throne, SafeCo Field was his castle, and the fans were his royal court. The Tampa Bay Rays could only be described as a King’s feast. We’ve seen him come close before, we’ve had our hearts broken by J.D Drew and we’ve wondered if this day would ever come. It came and we didn’t miss it. When we look back on the 2012 season, it will be clearly highlighted by one performance.
All hail the King.