Felix Hernandez is currently slated to start the last game of the regular season. He’s also starting today, with everything on the line. With a strong performance this afternoon (and some help from the Cleveland Indians) Felix can help bring the Seattle Mariners closer to where they want to be. A poor team performance, on the other hand, may go towards rendering Felix’s Sunday start unnecessary.
The Mariners are in a tough spot right now, to be sure. Trailing the second wild card by two games, the team has been brutally defeated in each of it’s last three outings. The offense was stymied by Dallas Keuchel in the first of those losses, but was more present in the last two games. No, it’s been the pitching that’s brought Seattle down over this little stretch.
Of all things, it’s the pitching. Roenis Elias is done for the season, and Chris Young isn’t guaranteed another start either. Hisashi Iwakuma has been shelled his last several times out and has mentioned balance and alignment issues. Remember, this is the guy who’d likely start the wild card game. James Paxton, impervious beacon of left-handed light, pitched some kind of terrible last night. There’s a staff getting exposed, and then there’s what’s been happening to the M’s arms lately.
Felix hasn’t been touched by any of this. As Corey Kluber has continued to gain ground in the Cy Young race, Felix has simply remained excellent towards the season’s end. This has bucked a trend from the last few years where September Felix was the only version of Felix that would struggle. This September, Felix has been lights out. And now, with the season down to six games, the King’s ability to finish strong is going to be put to the test.
Think about what this start means. A big start could go a long way towards a big win, and each loss cuts away at the Mariners playoff odds more than the ones before it. A big start could mean a Cy Young award. A clunker could mean a Cy Young award for Corey Kluber, and further decreased playoff odds.
This has been a season dominated by “this is the biggest game for this franchise since _____.” Surprise, surprise, today’s Felix Day is the most important game for this franchise since 2003, just as the same was true about yesterday’s game, and the game before that, and the game before that. So the Mariners haven’t just lost three straight – they’ve lost the Most Important Game Ever, three days in a row, in spectacular fashion. They’ve got to show it was a fluke. That’s what Felix is for.
We want the Mariners to win every day. The Mariners do not win every day. We want the Mariners to win every time Felix starts. Felix is starting today. And if the Mariners win, they can keep clinging to their wildest dreams. Which is a hell of a privilege given that it’s September 23rd.