Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez pitches a perfect game in 1-0 win over Tampa Bay Rays, something that's happened only 23 times in major-league history.

Share story

As Felix Hernandez of the Mariners prepared to throw the final pitch of his historic game Wednesday, one thought went through his head:

“Just throw it over the plate. He’s going to swing.”

It was the only miscalculation Hernandez made all day.

Sean Rodriguez, the batter for the Tampa Bay Rays, didn’t swing. He watched Hernandez’s changeup — an off-speed pitch that Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said is so nasty it should be illegal — fall into the glove of catcher John Jaso. Home-plate umpire Rob Drake emphatically called it a strike, and Hernandez had completed a perfect game.

In baseball, perfection means retiring all 27 batters in a nine-inning game, a feat so rare that it has only been done 23 times in more than 100 years of major-league history (but three times this season). And never before by a Mariner pitcher in the club’s 35 years and 5,700 games.

At the end, Hernandez pointed to the sky, and teammates sprinted out of the dugout and bullpen to engulf him. The Mariners won, 1-0.

But on April 21, the Mariners had been the victim of a perfect game at Safeco Field, by Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox.

Never before has one ballpark featured two perfect games in one season, and no team had ever had a perfect game thrown against them, and then authored one themselves in the same year.

It was only fitting that the regal performance, witnessed by a crowd of 21,889, was accomplished by the Mariner called “King Felix,” in front of his own rabid rooting section in the left-field corner, dubbed the “King’s Court.”

Hernandez, who struck out 12, said throwing a perfect game was “always on my mind.” The closest he had come was a one-hitter against the Boston Red Sox in 2007.

“Today it happened, and it’s something special,” he said. “I don’t have any words to explain this. It’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t happen every day.”

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @StoneLarry.