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July 16, 2010 at 11:22 PM

Another loss, but Felix showed a lot

It’s outings like tonight that help further cement Felix Hernandez as one of the top pitchers in the league.
Yes, he lost, to drop his record to 7-6. Yes, he gave up 10 hits, including four doubles. Yes, he struck out just three.
But Hernandez adjusted, battled, persevered, and made it through eight innings — another complete game. With 101 pitches, he probably would have been able to work the bottom of the ninth, had the M’s scored. He didn’t walk any. After giving up three runs early, he blanked the Angels the rest of the way.

What was most impressive was how he did it. Hernandez discovered early on that he didn’t have command of his fastball. As Don Wakamatsu explained it, it was cutting so much, he couldn’t control it. He sinker wasn’t sinking. His velocity was a tick off. And he was having trouble with his curve, too. So Hernandez, after about the third inning, starting throwing nothing but sliders and changeups. And made it work.
“Weird day,” Hernandez said. “No sinker, no four-seam, no curve ball. I threw a lot of sliders. I knew I had to find a different way.”
That’s pitching at the highest level — finding a way to get it done when you don’t have your best stuff. And, as has become typical, the Mariners didn’t reward him. This is the ninth game this season in which Hernandez has worked at least seven innings and given up three or fewer earned runs, and came away with either a loss or a no-decision. In every way except wins and losses, Hernandez is having a Cy Young-caliber season.
“It’s a shame we’re not getting Felix much run support,” Wakamatsu said. “You look at his overall record, but then you look at the numbers behind it, the innings he goes. It’s a shame he didn’t get a win.”
One other bright spot for the Mariners was Justin Smoak with two hits, including his first Mariner home run, with a man aboard in the seventh off Weaver.
“The last couple of nights, he chased a couple of balls down,” Wakamatsu said. “He sat on a changeup and hit it out of the park. He’s working hard. Just being able to come in and contribute in a game like that against an awfully good pitcher, I thought it was a good day for him.”
Smoak and Michael Saunders had four of the Mariners seven hits. Otherwise, it was variations on a theme — a crippling inability to score runs. It didn’t help to have two runners picked off, which Wakamatsu blamed on aggressive baserunning. They believe Weaver balked on the move that nailed Saunders, and Chone Figgins just jumped the gun trying to get a good jump in the eighth on Fernando Rodney, who has an especially quick move to the plate.
Don’t forget, also, Jered Weaver is pretty good. In three head-to-head matchups with Felix this year, he is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA.
There was not one walk in tonight’s game. I wouldn’t mind seeing that every night.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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