Felix Hernandez shrugs off any gawking over his numbers.
“They’re all right,” he deadpanned.
He also doesn’t want to put his season into perspective.
“Not yet,” he said.
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So we’ll do both for him: Hernandez turned in one of his most dazzling performances Sunday in what has already been a dazzling season. He overpowered the Brewers’ offense for eight shutout innings, allowing only four hits, striking out nine and carrying the Mariners to a 2-0 win before 25,390 Sunday.
“Felix was Felix,” acting manager Robby Thompson said.
Hernandez has been so good he has put himself right in the mix for another Cy Young Award. Sports Illustrated’s Cliff Corcoran named him the American League favorite late last month and CBSsports.com had him and Detroit’s Max Scherzer as the two front-runners.
Hernandez is 12-5, and he had only 13 wins when he won the Cy Young in 2010. He has an American League-leading 2.28 earned-run average, is second in the majors in strikeouts (178) and third in innings pitched (1732
He only helped his cause by dominating the Brewers.
Hernandez was so masterful that the Brewers elected to bring the infield in with a runner on third and one out in a scoreless tie – in the third inning.
“They’re smart,” outfielder Dustin Ackley said. “They know what kind of pitcher Felix is. I think that’s a huge sign of respect to Felix.”
The Mariners offense didn’t do much to make life easier on Hernandez, but they did just enough with their four hits. Dustin Ackley led off the third inning with a double. Brendan Ryan, who’s hitting .189, advanced Ackley to third by grounding out to second.
It went down in the box score as an out, but Ryan received pats on the helmet and high-fives all around when he got back to the dugout because, as Thompson put it, “He did his job.”
The advancement proved important shortly after when Ackley scored on a wild pitch, giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Seattle’s only other run came on a solo home run in the fifth inning from Justin Smoak, his 13th.
Hernandez, though, didn’t need much wiggle room.
“I was on it,” he said. “I was concentrating and just throwing good pitches.”
At one point, Hernandez retired 11 straight hitters. His only real jam came in the second inning, when he had runners on second and third with one out. He responded with a strikeout and fly out to end the inning.
“You don’t really get any pitches to drive,” Brewers DH Jonathan Lucroy said. “He made very few mistakes today. He probably made one mistake to me all day in three at-bats. One. And I didn’t swing.”
Hernandez also had solid defensive help. In the sixth inning, Ryan and Brad Miller combined for a nice double play after the leadoff man singled. Then, in the same inning, 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco gunned down Jean Segura attempting to steal second.
Blanco has thrown out four of seven runners this season.
“He’s unbelievable,” Hernandez said.
Maybe Hernandez’s only blemish, if that’s even the right word, came in the eighth inning. He needed 20 pitches to get through the inning and admitted he was trying to put a little extra on his pitches to strike out the final couple batters.
He walked slowly off the mound after blowing a 94 mph fastball by Martin Maldonado for the final out of the eighth and his ninth strikeout. Before the ninth inning, Thompson approached Hernandez to see if he wanted to go back out, and Hernandez admitted that the tank was close to empty.
“He’d had enough,” Thompson said.
So, closer Danny Farquhar came in and finished the job, allowing a single but nothing else in securing the win for Hernandez.