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August 19, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Felix had no-hit stuff, but wound up with an “L”

trayvoncatch.jpg
(Left fielder Trayvon Robinson making a fabulous diving catch in the first inning to rob Desmond Jennings. Photo by Associated Press).
Felix Hernandez could have, and probably should have, taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning tonight (Robinson’s catch notwithstanding). I watched him do just that on April 11, 2007, when he stole the spotlight away from Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Fenway Park debut. Hernandez gave up a leadoff single in the eighth that night to J.D. Drew, and that was it, a masterful one-hitter.
Herndandez might not have been quite as dominating tonight, but he was pretty good — “electric,” said Eric Wedge.
“It was going to be something special. I had a feeling,” said Hernandez.


Hernandez actually took a one-hitter into the eighth tonight, because a hard-hit grounder by B.J. Upton in the fifth inning that got by third baseman Adam Kennedy was ruled a hit and not an error by official scorer Bill Mathews, who had a taxing night. Mathews had another tough call to make in the seventh on a ball by Casey Kotchman that Kennedy, ranging to his left, knocked down, but cuffed around and couldn’t make a play on. That time, Mathews called it an error. Official scoring is not easy, and both plays could have gone either way. But if Upton’s hit had stood as the only one between Hernandez and a no-hitter, it would have been quite a controversy. Kennedy said he “absolutely” would have accepted an error on that play.
Kennedy would have more than that to worry about in the eighth, of course. First of all, with one out, pinch-hitter Sam Fuld lined a clean single to left, ending any no-hit dispute. The Mariners were leading 2-1 at this time, by virtue of Kyle Seager’s first major-league homer, leading off the seventh.
Hernandez struck out Jennings, and seemed to be out of the inning when Johnny Damon hit a grounder to the left of Kennedy. He ranged over, fielded the ball, but threw too late to get Damon — much to the consternation of manager Eric Wedge.
“We gave it to them,” Wedge said. “That’s the only way to put it. Felix was outstanding tonight. He had great stuff. He was in control of the ballgame, probably set up to go the whole way. We gave it to them there in the eighth.”
Yes, he was talking about the Damon ball.
“Obviously, Johnny gets down the line,” he said. “It’s just a play that has to be made. Adam took just a little too much time to get it over there. The inning’s over (if he makes the play), and it’s a different ballgame.”
Kennedy didn’t dispute that assessment.
“I just made a play on it, and he beat it out,” he said. “Apparently, I took too long. I didn’t think so at the time, but he was getting down the line pretty well.”
The result, after Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth retired the Mariners in order in the ninth, was a loss Kennedy termed “terrible” and Wedge called “a kick in the gut.”
Hernandez, as so often is the case, was stoic.
“It’s part of baseball,” he said. “It’s weird, huh? It’s a tough loss. Can’t do anything about it
“I was throwing the ball pretty good,” he added. “I felt great. All the pitches were working. I was thinking, ‘It could be something special today.’ I threw a lot of breaking balls and changeups today. I don’t know why. (Miguel) Olivo called the pitch, and I just threw it.”
Kennedy, remember, was playing third base because Dustin Ackley got the night off, causing Seager to move from third to second. Kennedy had a rough night at the hot corner.
“There were a couple of tough plays for me today over there, and I didn’t make any of them,” Kennedy said. “That wasn’t good.”
Wedge, visibily frustrated after the game, did have some nice things to say about Hernandez in the wake of the frustrating eighth. After Damon’s hit, he gave up an RBI single to Evan Longoria that tied it, and another single to Ben Zobrist that won it.
“There’s no one more frustrated than him, probably. But when he’s out there, his composure is off the charts. You don’t see him act any differently. He’s able to keep composed, and keep pitching, and just really keep his mind in the moment. It’s a great lesson for all the young pitchers, and the young players, we have: When things aren’t going well behind you, you still keep your mind in the moment, focus from pitch to pitch, and just keep pitching. It’s one of the many reasons he’s such a great pitcher.
“That’ s a kick in the gut right there. Again, Felix handles things as well, if not better, than anyone. It hurts right now, but he’ll move on, and we’ll move on. There’s certain things that happened tonight that I’m sure won’t happen again, but you have to wear it right now.”

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