Apr 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (23) pulls starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Mariners 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
In a sense, this game was everything it was supposed to be. Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish both pitched, and both pitched the way we expect them to pitch. The pair entered the game tied for the most WAR amongst pitchers, at 0.8. They ended the game still tied for the most WAR amongst pitchers, at 1.1. This game was supposed to be a duel between the elite’s elite, and there’s no arguing that it was. The Seattle Mariners even delivered on their reputation as Darvish killers, getting the Texas Rangers ace for two runs and carrying a lead into the game’s final out. But the Mariners didn’t win. This game, for so long, looked like it could be all that and another tally in the win column. But it wasn’t.
Let’s not lose sight of the whole Felix Hernandez angle to this game, since it’s the most compelling and we should celebrate him roughly always. Felix was Felix, meaning Felix was amazing. Consider this: over seven shutout innings, The King allowed one walk and struck out nine. That raised his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate for the season. His ERA, meanwhile, dipped to 1.91, and his FIP is actually lower than that at 1.74.
Last time we checked in, Felix was running the AL’s second best strikeout to walk rate, trailing only Masahiro Tanaka. That holds true today, too, only the gap is shrinking: Tanaka’s at 14 walks per K, while Felix checks in at 13. Felix’s one walk last night was issued to Mitch Moreland in the fourth. In a full count, Felix missed low with his signature change, dropping it into the dirt and giving Moreland the escape he’d needed. But what’s really important is that Felix struck out nine through seven. Felix is just destroying the world right now. He’s probably one of the only humans talented enough to keep this up, so for now I’m just going to link to video highlights and keep it simple: Felix is the best.
Also amazing is Yu Darvish, who was awesome last night, if not a little less awesome than his Mariners counterpart. Darvish held the Mariners to two runs, which is a lot by Darvish standards if not a lot by Darvish-versus-Seattle standards. The M’s just have his number, somehow, and plated a pair in the second inning, before the Rangers ace went all get-everyone-out crazy. Nick Franklin, fresh up from Tacoma, smashed a first-pitch cutter to the deepest part of Globe Life Park, cruising into third base with ease. One Dustin Ackley walk later, Mike Zunino laced an RBI single, and Abraham Almonte followed suit with one of his own. Darvish would scatter a few singles and a pair of walks, but never again allowed a serious threat, let alone runs. He gave way to Jason Frasor after seven innings with eight Ks, two walks, seven hits, and a pair of earned runs.
Texas got their first run in the eighth, when Leonys Martin led off with a triple against Felix. Lloyd McClendon quickly got Charlie Furbush into the game, and the tall lefty allowed a deep sac fly to score Martin. Furbush struck out Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus, the M’s went down in order against Pedro Figueroa, and Fernando Rodney came out to shut things down. Except he didn’t. Shut things down, I mean, he did take the mound but he did not shut things down. Well, I guess he did shut things down, in that his pitching resulted in the end of the game. But not the way he’s paid to end games.
Alex Rios and Prince Fielder went down to lead off the frame, and the suddenly amazing Kevin Kouzmanoff extended things with a single. Rodney walked Moreland, giving the Rangers a runner in scoring position. Pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy grounded out to short, except he wasn’t out because Brad Miller couldn’t quite make the throw to first happen. A wild pitch scored Kouzmanoff, and a single by Martin sealed things. Rodney’s first blown save as a Mariner cost Felix the win, and in a way that’s fitting. Part of the Mariners whole thing is that there’s 24 guys on the roster who are capable of killing the good Felix vibe. Wednesday, it was Rodney’s turn. Welcome to Seattle, Fernando.
The Mariners are at .500 for the first time all season. They’re in third place for the first time all season. With a win today they can still salvage a series split, and all they’ll have to do in order to get there is beat up Tanner Scheppers a little. Erasmo Ramirez pitches for Seattle, and a good outing could do wonders for the way we all feel about the Mariners rotation. Everyone’s hurt, but everyone else has been good, except Erasmo. The game starts… any minute now! Go M’s!