Felix Hernandez has been called “The King” since he was a 19-year-old making his debut in 2005, but it wasn’t until August 15, 2012 when The King was crowned.
Hernandez threw the third perfect game of the 2012 season–and 23rd in Major League history–striking out 12 in a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The perfecto was the first in Mariners’ franchise history, and the fifth time the Rays have been no-hit since their debut in 1998–the most of any team in that span.
Meanwhile, Seattle becomes the first team in history to throw perfect game and have a perfect game thrown against them in same season.
Hernandez said after the game,
“It was always in my mind, every game. ‘I need to throw a perfect game.’ For every pitcher, I think it’s in their mind. Today it happened and it’s something special. I don’t have any words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. It doesn’t happen every day.”
Just how dominant was Hernandez? Well, he was his ordinary dominant self. He appeared to get stronger as the game went on, striking out the side in the 6th and 8th before punching out five of the final six batters he faced. Hernandez was still touching 95 mph in the 9th, despite totalling 113 pitches. He went to three-ball counts on just two batters, and let off the count with strike one on 16 batters of the 27 batters he faced. His 25 swing-and-misses on breaking pitches are the most by anyone since 2009.
King Felix continues a scorching second half of the season–in seven starts, he’s 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA and a minuscule 0.64 WHIP.
It’s also fitting that Hernandez picks up the 1-0 win. The Mariners have been so bad for so long, Hernandez has often been among the league leaders in lack of run support. In fact, Hernandez won the 2010 AL Cy Young despite a 13-12 record. He did, however, have a league-leading 2.27 ERA. He’s now a career 96-72 and has now accomplished everything there is to do, except for postseason play.
While it’s so fun to watch Hernandez carve through the Rays’ lineup–or any pitcher bidding for perfection–I’ve begun to question whether or not this feat is occuring too frequently.
Hernandez’ perfect game marks the first time that three perfect games have been thrown in the same season (following Phil Humber on April 21 and Matt Cain on June 13), and sixth no-hitter of the 2012 campaign. A whopping 14% of all perfect games in Major League history have been thrown in 2012–we’ve already seen three in fewer than four months, a record for a Major League season. It’s the first time in history that there have been two perfect games in the same stadium in the same year.
Since Cy Young’s perfect game in 1904–the first of the modern era–there have been 23 perfectos, an average of roughly one every five years. Now, five have been thrown in two years and two months, including those by Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden in 2010, and six beginning with Mark Buehrle’s in 2009. Four perfect games were thrown in the 1990s, three in the ’80s and none in the ’70s–in comparison, 15 no-hitters have been thrown since April 2010.
What was once an incredibly rare feat of luck and brilliance, has now become almost commonplace.
With that said, it was I who, like everyone else around me, sat slouched in anticipation, fists clenched as Hernandez sat just three outs away from history. Then two. Then one. Waiting and watching to see one of the league’s best pitchers etch his name in the record books.
Then he froze Sean Rodriguez with another nasty breaking ball. With a smile on my face, I watched as Hernandez was mobbed by his teammates on the mound, grateful to be able to say, ‘I watched a perfect game…again.’
What do you think? Have no-hitters and perfect games become too regular an occurrence in baseball?