Something has been off about Felix Hernandez lately. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and a lot of people tried to tell me that he couldn’t pitch a shutout every night.
While I am painfully aware of that, there was still something that just wasn’t right about the one we in the northwest call “The King”. But what could it be?
After starting the season on fire (4 starts, 3-0, 1.91 ERA, 2 BB, 39 K) Felix started to look more human than superhuman. More Commoner, than King. In his next four starts, Felix not only suffered his first loss of the season but had some other un-King like starts.
In one game against Oakland, Felix allowed 11 hits and four runs over 6.1 IP and didn’t strike anyone out. Not a single Athletic batter found their way to the bench via the dreaded ‘K’.
I had a theory as to what may have been ailing the King. I stated it several times on Twitter and no one wanted to hear it, with good reason. I suggested that Felix may be suffering from a slight shoulder injury.
Nothing that was going to need critical attention, for now, but something that was bugging him just enough to not have his typical results.
I first saw it in his first start against Texas. That night he settled for a no decision striking out nine in 7 IP. It was more noticeable during his next start against Houston.
That was his first and only loss of the year so far. He allowed six runs (though only two were earned) and struck out only four. He followed that up with a three-run, three-walk and four strikeout no decision against the Rangers.
Hernandez’s next start was the shortest outing of the season so far. He went only 5 IP, walked three, hit a batter and gave up three runs. Then came the aforementioned Oakland game.
Now, I know that if I saw him favoring his throwing shoulder several times, the trainers HAD to see it too, right? So why have we not heard anything about it? I could be wrong. But it sure seemed to me that Felix was hurting.
I’m not suggesting some media conspiracy or team coverup, but with the way the season has gone for the Mariners so far with their pitching staff, do you really think they wanted to have to explain to the fans that Felix now needed to go on the DL?
Felix turned a corner at home against Tampa Bay.
Whether he got some treatment for the shoulder, it finally healed itself or it was all just a figment of my imagination, Felix looked better in his start against the Rays.
He threw 111 pitches (his highest total of the year so far) allowed eight hits and four runs, but didn’t walk a single batter and struck out seven. He followed that with another solid outing in Minnesota and that brings us to last night.
Felix was Felix. Back at home, with the raucous crowd at Safeco behind him, Felix mowed down the Houston Astros in regal fashion. Only one earned run and one walk to go with nine strikeouts in 8 IP of work.
He lowered his BAA to .232 and his ERA to 2.75 (after having had it over 3.00 at one point). He’s 3rd in the AL in wins, 4th in strikeouts and more importantly, any hint of what I perceived to be a shoulder issue, appears to be gone. Again, it may not have even existed, it may have been treated, it may have healed.
But last night marked the return of the King to the Seattle. And we as his humble peasants, continue to be ever-humbled and honored to be in his presence.