All hail the King! Felix throws perfect game
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE — General manager Jack Zduriencik hushed the crowd of reporters on the elevator headed to the Mariners’ clubhouse after the game on Wednesday afternoon, held his cell phone to his ear and said for all to hear, “No. No. I am NOT going to trade Felix Hernandez.”
It was the perfect response to the first perfect game in Mariners history, a giddy moment for a franchise that had endured the wrong side of perfection earlier this season at the hands of the White Sox Philip Humber.
Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past seven years, but he’d never thrown a no-hitter, let alone been perfect for 27 straight outs.
But history was his on Wednesday, as the 26-year-old Venezuelan became the 23rd perfect pitcher in Major League history — and third this season — with a 1-0 masterpiece over the Rays at Safeco Field.
“It’s always in my mind,” Hernandez said. “Every game, I’m thinking I need to throw a perfect game. [More on this below.] For every pitcher, I think it’s in their mind. But today it happened, and it’s something special. I don’t have any words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. This does not happen every day.” [A master of understatement?]
The 2010 American League Cy Young winner struck out 12 as he continued an overpowering midseason run with his fourth shutout in the past 10 games, including a five-hitter against the Red Sox, a three-hitter against the Rangers, a two-hitter against the Yankees and, now, perfection against the Rays.
It was the fourth no-hitter in Mariners history and second this season, as six Seattle pitchers combined to do the deed on June 8 against the Dodgers at Safeco.
Randy Johnson (1990) and Chris Bosio (1993) are the other Mariners with individual no-hitters, but neither was perfect.
Hernandez had thrown a one-hitter, a 3-0 victory at Boston on April 11, 2007, and has had four two-hitters, including one two starts ago in Yankee Stadium on Aug. 4 in another 1-0 win.
Ironically, none of those one- or two-hitters came at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, where the King’s Court rooting section led the crowd of 21,889 in Wednesday’s boisterous environment.
The Rays’ best chance for a hit came when leadoff hitter Sam Fuld drove a pitch into the gap in right-center, but the ball was hauled in at the warning track by Eric Thames.
B.J. Upton chopped a grounder to short in the seventh that got past diving third baseman Kyle Seager, but shortstop Brendan Ryan fielded the ball cleanly and threw out Upton by two steps.
Otherwise, Hernandez did the bulk of the work, striking out the side in the sixth and eighth innings and keeping the Rays off balance throughout by working a wicked changeup, curve and slider off a fastball that ticked up to 95 mph in the final frame.
How I wish there were an AWESOME GAME GOING ON RIGHT NOW TURN ON TV ALERT! app for the iPhone. It would be great to watch one live.
I am reminded of the chapter in George Will’s great book Men At Work: The Craft Of Baseball (I have a signed edition) in which he asks pitcher Orel Hershiser, “So what’s your goal when you go to the mound? A no-hitter?” Hershiser responds:
“No … A perfect game. If they get a hit, I am throwing a one-hitter. If they get a walk, it’s my last walk. I deal with perfection to the point that is logical to conceive it. History is history, the future is perfect.”
On the other hand, equally useful for our spiritual lives – especially when we examine our consciences after a defeat or a fall – there is a moment in the great baseball movie The Natural (an oddity in that the movie is far better than the original book) in which the protagonist, Roy Hobbs is down and out and he and his redemptive character have this exchange:
Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How… what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.
Amen. That’s how I have to live.
We have to get up every morning looking for that perfect game. In the evening when we go to bed, we do well to look back over the score sheet and examine our consciences.
We can’t pitch perfect games every day. Only our Blessed Mother – Assumed into heaven as heaven’s Queen – did that. We will often fail even to do well, as did all the saints before they developed their heroic virtues. We have to persevere with the knowledge both that, even though our sins are as red as scarlet, through the Sacrament of Penance Christ’s Blood washes us as clean and white as snow, and also that the life of virtue is attained by grace and elbow grease throughout a lifetime. Therefore…
GO TO CONFESSION!