King Felix wears crown at Stadium
For those in the Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,067 Saturday, do not expect a long explanation about what they saw at the game. Oh, wait, the Yankees did actually get one runner past first base. They also had three other base runners. So Felix Hernandez was not perfect. He was just the next thing to it.
The day after getting a complete-game effort from CC Sabathia, the Yankees ran into a touché performance from the righthander known as King Felix. Hernandez was every bit his regal self in shutting down the Yankees, 1-0, on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts in a dazzling, 101-pitch outing.
“We had one shot today,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, referring to Robinson Cano’s two-out double in the first inning. “That’s how good he was. He didn’t give us anything to hit. He was never in any bad counts, except for the time he walked Raul [Ibanez] on four pitches [in the seventh inning]. There was about one ball per batter. He was great today.”
Cano was left stranded at second base in the first inning as Mark Teixeira lined out. The Yankees’ other hit was Ichiro Suzuki’s daily single, a roller past first baseman Mike Carp, leading off the third inning. Ichiro was erased on a double play by Russell Martin. Their only other base runner was Curtis Granderson, who walked with two down in the sixth.
That was it, boys and girls. Hernandez put on an absolute clinic in pitching, which he has made a habit of at the current Stadium. In five starts in the Bronx since 2009, King Felix is 4-1 with an absolute Gibson-esque 1.13 ERA (Bob Gibson had a record 1.12 ERA for the Cardinals in 1968). In eight starts combined at the old and new Stadiums, Hernandez is 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA.
How good would he look in pinstripes? The Yankees would certainly have interest, but the Mariners have no plans on trading Hernandez, who is 10-5 with a 2.63 ERA, a remarkable record considering Seattle’s anemic offense. Their lineup Saturday contained one player batting higher than .260. The key to winning for a team like that is to keep the other team from scoring.
It was a hard-luck loss for Hiroki Kuroda, who was defeated for the first time in eight starts since June 19 despite allowing only one run in 6 1/3 innings. Carp’s two-out single off a 3-2 fastball in the second inning drove in that run. Hernandez proceeded to make one run seem insurmountable.
“It is part of the game,” Kuroda said through a translator. “It is what it is. When you are in a game like that, you know you have to minimize the damage. That is what I tried to do.”
For the most part, Kuroda was successful. Carp’s hit was Seattle’s only one in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Yankees’ problem was that King Felix allowed them only one runner in scoring position.
There really isn’t much else left to say. Mariners manager Eric Wedge put it best when he said, “That was just special stuff today. I told him that it was probably the most impressive start that I have ever seen as a manager. I’ve seen a lot of good and great pitchers pitch over the years. This ballpark, that lineup, the swings and misses, the missed hits with so many good hitters over there, the efficiency in which he did it in a 1-0 ballgame, it doesn’t get any better than that.”