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Originally published April 12, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 21, 2007 at 9:07 PM

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Felix Hernandez: King for a day

By time-honored baseball custom, of course, no one said a word. But as Wednesday night's game progressed, Mariners players sensed that Felix...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Mariners at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., no TV/KOMO 1000 AM.

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BOSTON — By time-honored baseball custom, of course, no one said a word. But as Wednesday night's game progressed, Mariners players sensed that Felix Hernandez could realistically do it.

Not just outshine the ultra-hyped Daisuke Matsuzaka, and give the Mariners their first win in eight days.

Pitch a no-hitter.

He didn't — J.D. Drew's ground single up the middle to lead off the eighth ended the bid — but Hernandez turned in a dazzling effort in every other regard as the Mariners blanked the Red Sox, 3-0, at Fenway Park.

Hernandez wound up with a one-hitter, the Mariners' first in a nine-inning game since Randy Johnson in 1998.

With stuff that Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek called "electric," Hernandez extended his season-opening scoreless streak to 17 innings, during which he has yielded just four hits.

Contrasted with Matsuzaka's solid but unspectacular effort in his Fenway unveiling (seven innings, eight hits, three runs), Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen could come to just one conclusion: Felix was, and is, the superior pitcher.

Today

Mariners at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., no TV/KOMO 1000 AM.

"You can see the big difference between those two guys," he said. "To me, there's no comparison right there. If you know baseball, and saw what was there today, you don't even need to ask that question. That was a great lineup they had on the other side."

But Hernandez toyed with it most of the night — with plenty of help from his defense. In the fifth inning, second baseman Jose Lopez made a sprawling stop to rob Drew. In the seventh, a weirdly- spinning line drive by Kevin Youkilis momentarily flummoxed left fielder Raul Ibanez, who misread it and stumbled but recovered to make a diving catch.

Mariners players were beginning to sense history in the making — Seattle's first no-hitter since Chris Bosio in 1993.

"We got into the sixth, and you start to get lighter on your feet," said first baseman Richie Sexson.

"You feel like you can catch everything at that point. In the seventh, it got to where, 'OK, anything hit, I'm going to run out to right field to get it.' And if you can't get it, at least make it look like an error. Anything you can do to keep it alive."

Drew, who came into the game hitting .400, at least broke it up with no ambiguity. He pounced on the first pitch ("a two-seamer that stayed up a little bit," Hernandez said afterward) and grounded it up the middle, past Hernandez and by a diving Lopez into center field.

"On TV [watching the replay], it looked like I was close," Lopez said. "I didn't think I had a chance, but you never know. I have to slide, try to catch the ball and throw hard to first, especially with a no-hitter. You never know if you have a chance."

Said Hernandez: "I tell him in the dugout, why did you not catch the ball? I was joking. I thanked my defense after the game. They played great."

Hardly deflated by the hit, Hernandez quickly retired the side, then completed the gem with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"Felix was awesome," said Sexson. "There was a lot of hype surrounding this game, and he really stepped up, rose the occasion on a big stage. If people weren't watching him before, they certainly are going to watch him now."

Most people had come to watch Matsuzaka face Ichiro, and that battle, at least, was won by Dice-K. He retired Ichiro all four times he faced him, the first time on a full-count comebacker as the cool Boston night was illuminated by hundreds of flash bulbs.

Ichiro also flied out to center, struck out and grounded into a forceout. Afterward, he paid heed to the magnetism of his teammate on the World Baseball Classic championship team last spring.

"Instead of what kind of pitches he has, I really recognize his presence on the mound," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "Very few professional baseball players have that, and many struggle because they don't have that. Because [Matsuzaka] already has that presence, he does have the possibility to become a star [in the major leagues]."

One and done
Felix Hernandez tossed the ninth one-hitter in Mariners history in shutting out Boston (two Seattle pitchers have thrown no-hitters, Randy Johnson on June 2, 1990, and Chris Bosio on April 22, 1993):
Pitcher Date Outcome
Jim Beattie Sept. 27, 1983 M's 4, Kansas City 0
Mike Trujillo Sept. 20, 1986 M's 3, Kansas City 0
Mark Langston Sept. 24, 1988 M's 3, at Texas 0
Brian Holman April 20, 1990 M's 6, at Oakland 1
Randy Johnson Aug. 14, 1991 M's 4, Oakland 0
Randy Johnson May 16, 1993 M's 7, at Oakland 0
Randy Johnson July 16, 1998 M's 3, Minnesota 0
Gil Meche June 13, 2000 M's 7, at K.C. 0 (5 inn.)
Felix Hernandez April 11, 2007 M's 3, at Boston 0

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