Chip Scoggins: This King requires no crown to reign

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2012 - 12:22 AM

Felix Hernandez was completely at ease prior to taking the mound and shutting out the Twins.

hide

Seattle starter Felix Hernandez acknowledged center fielder Franklin Gutierrez after he caught a deep fly by the Twins' Trevor Plouffe in the third inning Monday night.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Felix Hernandez walked into the Seattle Mariners clubhouse wearing jeans, a dress shirt and big diamonds in each ear. He threw on his Miami Heat Dwyane Wade T-shirt, joked with a few teammates and playfully joined a group of reporters huddled around center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

He waved his arms in the background until Gutierrez acknowledged him, which sent Hernandez away with a belly laugh.

Hernandez appeared as relaxed as any pitcher can look a few hours before his start, a maestro preparing for another performance, knowing he's so ridiculously good that there's no reason to feel uptight. It's good to be king.

"We all get pumped up when he's on the mound," catcher John Jaso said. "... It's a confidence booster when you know you've got a guy like that going out there."

King Felix showed why once again Monday night at Target Field. In his second start since recording the 23rd perfect game in major league history, Hernandez wasn't perfect or untouchable, but he refused to budge in holding the Twins to five hits in a 1-0 victory.

In an unexpected pitching duel, Liam Hendriks was good. King Felix was better.

"Just special stuff," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.

Hernandez wriggled out of a few tight spots to become only the third pitcher since 1969 to win his fourth 1-0 game of the season, joining two Hall of Famers: Fergie Jenkins (1974) and Bert Blyleven (1976).

Hernandez left Justin Morneau stranded in the seventh after a leadoff triple, inducing grounders by Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe and Jamey Carroll. In the ninth, he faced Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Morneau. He retired Mauer on a groundout and then forced Morneau into a double play after an infield single by Willingham.

"I'm a big competitive guy and I've just got to go out there and do my thing," Hernandez said. "That's the hard part of the lineup. I've got to make good pitches."

That's rarely a problem for Hernandez, who got all the run support he needed on a home run by Eric Thames in the eighth inning. Hernandez has given up only one earned run in his past 27 2/3 innings pitched and owns five shutouts this season.

"We get him a 1-0 lead," Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said, "and he smells blood."

Hernandez is stringing together an absurd run of pitching excellence. In his past 14 starts, he is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 100 strikeouts. He has not lost since June 12.

"Truthfully, sometimes I think we take him for granted a little bit," said Seattle pitching coach Carl Willis, the former Twins reliever. "You expect every fifth day for him to go out and be dominating. And certainly he can do that. But you can't get caught sitting and watching."

No one has a better view than Jaso, who caught King Felix's perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15. Hernandez finished with 12 strikeouts in another 1-0 victory to deliver the first perfect game in Mariners history and a record third in the major leagues this year.

"I remember catching strike three in the ninth inning and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, did that just happen?' " Jaso said.

Hitters often are left with a similar feeling after seeing King Felix's repertoire of pitches, particularly his nasty changeup, his signature pitch.

"There are times when hitters know it's coming and still it's just so good and has so much action on it, you can't lay off it," Willis said. "He throws it with such conviction and arm speed that you can't pick it up."

That leads to awkward swings and baffled looks from frustrated hitters.

"The days that it is on, hitters are expecting it to come and they can't do anything about it," Jaso said. "They try and swing at pitches earlier in the count so they don't have to face that changeup. It can really mess with hitters heads."

Hernandez is a treat to watch in that regard. He's demonstrative on the mound but never looks rattled. He talks to himself and opposing batters. He pirouettes off the mound after timely strikeouts.

"He enjoys the competition and the challenges," Willis said. "Sometimes when he gives up a hit, he'll laugh or look at the guy. It's a still a fun game for him."

He has maintained that perspective despite playing on some crummy teams that have provided little run support. He just keeps firing away, giving his team the upper hand most nights.

"You're getting one of the best pitchers in the league, a really special pitcher going out there every fifth day," Seattle starter Jason Vargas said. "He's just a winner, that's it."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • SEATTLE 1, TWINS 0

    7:10 tonight vs. Seattle • FSN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
7:05 PM ET123456789RHE
MinnesotaK. Gibson (11-10)000
BaltimoreC. Tillman (11-5)000
@theBallpark
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - M. Pineda 12:07 PM
Toronto - D. Hutchison
Detroit - M. Scherzer 12:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Sale
Chicago Cubs - F. Doubront 1:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Masterson
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 23 4th Qtr 0:17
UCF 24
Troy 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close