Apr 26, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
The Felix Hernandez-led Seattle Mariners lost to the Texas Rangers 6-3 on Saturday night, but the real story was fear and intimidation. That’s according to Elvis Andrus, anyway, who noted that the longstanding Felix-Adrian Beltre rivalry appears to have gotten to the King’s head. Felix walked in a run, so it’s not like these comments are coming out of nowhere. But to most Mariners fans, this is a ridiculous notion, since we’re so familiar with both Felix and Beltre.
Felix, intimidated by the longtime friend he famously goofs around with on the field? Felix, losing at anything to anyone? It doesn’t sound right. Never mind his ugly recent record against the Rangers, that’s just a coincidence. Felix has been (relatively) bad against Texas over the last season-plus because the Rangers are good and the Mariners are bad. Even the game’s best have bad games, and since there are only so many opportunities for clunkers, there’s a decent chance of any one team being the beneficiary with disproportionate frequency. Recently, it’s been the Rangers. So there: Felix isn’t losing these Felix-Beltre mental battles. There’s no saying if these things are even a big deal. They’re probably not. So there.
Thing is, mental battles be damned, the Mariners still lost another Felix Day game. Not like Hernandez was awesome or anything: in six innings he walked three and struck out only four, allowing three runs in the fifth inning. That was an ugly frame for Felix – three straight line drive singles, a bases loaded walk to Robinson Chirinos of all people, an RBI single, and an RBI sac fly. All this happened against the weakest part of the Rangers lineup, as Mitch Moreland got things started and was followed by Donnie Murphy and Leonis Martin. Michael Choice had the fourth single, and Elvis Andrus smacked the sac fly. That inning ended, incidentally, on a Beltre groundout. Really in Felix’s head, what with that groundout.
Oft-neglected outfielder Michael Saunders found himself batting leadoff and responded by opening the bottom of the first with a home run off Colby Lewis. He worked a great at bat, fouling off a bunt on the first pitch and leaving the yard with the count full on pitch number seven. Kyle Seager led off the second inning and hit a homer of his own. Both times Lewis simply didn’t put his fastball where he should’ve, and both times he was punished by good hitting. Mike Zunino‘s sac fly in the fourth added a run, and that was it. For the M’s, anyway.
The Rangers took the lead in the eighth, as Charlie Furbush hit Prince Fielder and Yoervis Medina slowly coaxed him home. Joe Beimel padded the Rangers lead an inning later, as Martin singled, advanced to third on a bunt and a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch. Andrus doubled on a hop over the fence and scored one pitch later on a Fielder single. One Adrian Beltre single later, and in came Danny Farquhar to get the last out. What’s the deal with Lloyd McClendon‘s reluctance to use his best reliever? Why let the Joe Beimels and Yoervis Medinas of the world struggle when there’s a perfectly good Farquhar ready and waiting? Nonsense.
Believe it or not, this is still a winable series. Because the Mariners won on Friday. Remember? They won on Wednesday, too! They’ve won twice, recently! Brandon Maurer and Matt Harrison face off at 1:10 this afternoon. Saunders is leading off again, and Abraham Almonte has finally found his way to the bench. Not that the dude’s definitely a fourth outfielder, just that he probably shouldn’t be amongst the league leaders in plate appearances. Maurer was impressive last time out, and all of a sudden it’s easy to look past his struggles and remember that he forced his way into conversations involving Cerebrus a year ago. He could be good. Why not now?
Some Felix Hernandez facts, before we part ways. So the King’s been roughed up the last two times out, right? At 1.3 WAR, he still leads all of baseball, tied with Cliff Lee. Concerned about the walks these last two games? Felix’s BB/9 right now is 1.52, easily a career best. And his strikeouts are down in the games against Houston and Texas, let’s not forget. That puts his K/9 at… 10.23, best of his career, by a mile. He’s allowing less homers per fly ball than he did a year ago. He hasn’t topped his current 2.40 ERA since he won the Cy Young, and his 2.41 FIP is his best ever. Same with his 2.55 xFIP. Felix Hernandez hasn’t been especially sharp the last two times he’s pitched, and it hasn’t really mattered. He’s still, somehow, started off on the best pace of his fabled career. He’s signed through at least 2019. All hail King Felix.