The 113 pitches King Felix Hernandez threw Wednesday at Safeco Field gave Mariner fans hope their team might actually have a chance to be competitive.
The Mariners’ ace tossed a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 23rd perfect game — no hits and no runners on base — in Major League history.
Amazingly, it was the third perfecto thrown this season and the sixth no-hitter. (One of those no-hitters was by the Mariners. In June six pitchers tossed a combined no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers — another sign of hope.)
This has some wondering whether this season’s dominance of pitchers is a sign that baseball finally has the use of performance enhancing substances under control. It seems as if that might be the case. And, if so, that’s a good thing.
But the King was so good Wednesday that he could have gone 27 up, 27 down against a lineup of bulked up steroid users or the famous Murderers’ Row, the 1927 New York Yankee lineup features Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Hernandez struck out 12 and all of the balls hit resulted in routine plays for the Mariner infield and outfield.
“The stuff was on par with anything I’ve ever seen,” said Tampa Bay’s all-star third baseman Evan Longoria. “He was able to just make pitches in any count. It seemed like every pitch you thought he was going to throw at a certain point, or you guess a pitch, it was the other pitch.”
It was also clear by the fifth inning that something special was going on. Facebook and Twitter traffic was crazy as folks posted updates on the perfect game in the making. Radios began to pop on in homes, offices, cars and sidewalks from Alaska to Montana.
By the ninth inning it seemed everybody was listening as broadcaster Dave Sims made the call as Hernandez got the third out when Sean Rodriguez watched strike three go over the plate. It was a moment in Northwest sports history that’s now frozen in time.
The Internet chatter continued for hours after that final pitch. The posts were filled with joy and optimism.
A World Series championship? It was talked about. That was something unimaginable the day before.
Realistically, the M’s have a long — long — way to be a contender.
But Hernandez is only 26 and should have many good years left in his right arm.
The Mariners need to build on Hernandez’s amazing talent and the excitement his perfect game has created for Major League Baseball in the Pacific Northwest.