Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published September 28, 2014 at 7:42 PM | Page modified September 28, 2014 at 11:45 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments
  • Print

Felix Hernandez gets to take one last bow in a great season

Lloyd McClendon gave Felix Hernandez a parting gift Sunday, once it became apparent that his outing, typically brilliant, had become superfluous. The gift was adulation. A chance for Mariners fans to salute Hernandez one final time for his wondrous season.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Felix by the numbers

15 Wins this season, second highest total of his career. Hernandez won 19 in 2009.

248 Strikeouts this season, a career high.

2.14 ERA this season, lowest in the AL.

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
We love you Felix. Thank you so much for being a part of our Mariners. MORE
Felix had a bad outing in Toronto? What about the 90 bad outings the offense had? I don't want to hear a single word... MORE
This team needs some offensive pieces added, to be sure. But they just went through an awesome experience that will... MORE

advertising

Lloyd McClendon gave Felix Hernandez a parting gift Sunday, once it became apparent that his outing, typically brilliant, had become superfluous.

The gift was adulation. A chance for Mariners fans, deflated by the knowledge there would be no miracles on Sunday, to salute Hernandez one final time for his wondrous season.

The Oakland A’s had just won in Texas, an outcome that caused Hernandez to bow his head in the dugout in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Mariners’ playoff hopes, extended well beyond expectations — both of those heading into the season, and heading into the weekend — officially expired.

So McClendon told Hernandez he was going to let him pitch to one batter in the sixth and then take him out so he could bathe in an ovation from the near sellout crowd at Safeco Field. First, McClendon told Hernandez, jokingly, that the trainer would come out to get him.

“Hell, no. You’re not going to bring the trainer out,’’ Hernandez retorted.

Of course, it was McClendon himself who went out with the hook after Hernandez had retired C.J. Cron on a groundout to start the sixth. The Mariners led the Angels 4-0 and Hernandez was pitching as well as he had all season — just one hit allowed, a broken-bat single by Albert Pujols, with seven strikeouts.

“I’m surprised he gave me a hug,’’ McClendon said. “I thought he’d probably hit me.”

Hernandez hugged each of his infielders, one at a time, before giving a longer embrace to McClendon and then catcher Mike Zunino. Hernandez walked off to maybe the loudest cheer all season at Safeco Field, waving to the crowd, then bowing, then coming out for a curtain call.

Hernandez’s eyes seemed to be moistening. Tears?

“No, no, I was just…’’ he protested, then stopped and offered a wan smile. “Kinda. It didn’t come out. Pretty close.”

Just like it was oh so close for the Mariners, who finished one game out of a playoff spot despite their eventual 4-1 victory. And so it was impossible Sunday not to look back at all the games that got away. That includes Hernandez’s lopsided defeat in his previous start in Toronto, the one discordant note in what likely will be a second Cy Young season.

“I disappointed my teammates last time against Toronto,’’ he said. “Today, I was of a different mind.”

That was evident to teammates Saturday night, when the dynamics for Sunday were established by the Mariners’ walkoff win and Oakland’s loss. Amid the joking and celebrating in the clubhouse, a stern-faced Felix exited quickly.

“We were talking about it this morning, actually,’’ Michael Saunders said. “We had a really good feeling about what was going to happen. Superstars rise to the occasion. He’s arguably the best pitcher in the game. He proved it out there today.”

Hernandez would say afterward his stuff was as good as it has been all season. And McClendon would say afterward that Hernandez wasn’t at full strength, though the manager was vague about his specific malady, other than the fatigue of a 230-inning season.

“Felix is a hell of a competitor,’’ McClendon said. “There was no talking him out of not starting this game. He really didn’t want to come out in the sixth. I just said: ‘The hell with it. I’m going to get him.’ ”

To which Hernandez said, “If Oakland had lost, I was not going to come out of the game.”

But the A’s won, at which point the focus of the afternoon turned, instantly, from driving toward a playoff berth to ceremonial tributes. One out after removing Hernandez, McClendon pulled Robinson Cano, too, to give him his moment in the sun.

“I just thought our fans should have an opportunity to thank them for the tremendous years both of them had,’’ McClendon said.

Hernandez won the American League ERA title (2.14), established a career best with 248 strikeouts and racked up his 15th victory — well short of where he would have been with decent run support.

But Hernandez didn’t want Toronto to be the prevailing memory of this season. If the Mariners were going to sneak into the postseason, he wanted it to be on his back. And he was dominant, striking out seven through three innings. He had no-hit stuff, but there was no need to flaunt it anymore once Seattle became the last team in baseball to be eliminated.

“All my starts, I’m trying to give 100 percent,’’ he said, “but today was more fun. I was trying to go out and do my thing. It was good. You saw my face when I was pitching today. I was like, ‘This is it.’ This is my game.”

It was Hernandez’s game, but one too few for the Mariners — a lesson learned.

“You hear people say all the time, it comes down to one game sometimes,’’ Zunino said. “You don’t believe it until it actually happens. This gives a lesson to everybody. It’s definitely something we’re going to keep in mind next year. Every game, no matter how small it seems, is going to affect the long run.”

Hernandez said he will work even harder this offseason, to see if he can find a way to coax the one win that got away — or more.

“Next year is going to be fun, too,’’ he said.



Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.

Advertising

About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.
lstone@seattletimes.com

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►