King Felix, the 2010 Cy Young Award winner, has been lights out all season long and continues to become more dominant as the year progresses.
On Saturday night, against Major League Baseball's best offense, the Texas Rangers, the King tossed perhaps his most impressive game of the season.
With some rare and very unusual first-inning run support mixed with the huge crowd in the "King's Court", it was a night fit for something miraculous. The 26-year-old righty did not disappoint.
Hernandez cruised through the highly-potent offense en route to his second shutout of the season. On the way he also collected 12 strikeouts, one shy of his season high. Of the 12 k's, three of them were handed to the AL MVP front runner Josh Hamilton, along with three more to slugger Nelson Cruz. All in all, Hernandez struck out seven of the nine Rangers' starters.
After this inspiring performance by Felix, his record has improved to 7-5 on the year. It's his third win in his past five starts, and he has not pitched a loss in over a month; June 12th against the Padres, to be exact.
For those still stuck in the past, thinking wins are all that matters, one must first realize that this is the same guy who won the Cy Young in 2010 with a record of 13-12, and then take a look at the fact that he has the third lowest run support in the entire MLB.
This was also the 11th time, out of 19 starts, that Hernandez has given up one run or less with at least seven innings pitched.
Along with improving his record, Hernandez also moved into the lead for overall strikeouts at 140 for the year. This moved him out of a three way tie with fire-ballers Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. This was the third time he had reached the 12-strikeout plateau, including a 13 K's against the Red Sox just four games ago. It was also his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season.
The complete game win also tied him for most innings pitched, also held by Verlander, at 132.2. For all the talk about how the Tigers' ace is a workhorse, people tend to forget that Hernandez has pitched more innings than him in the past three and a half seasons combined in the same amount of starts.
If having a double-digit strikeout lead isn't impressive enough, Hernandez also lowered his ERA to sub-3.00 after tonight. His 2.92 mark places him at sixth overall in the American League. It's the firs time since his last start against Texas on May 21th that his ERA has been in the 2.00 range. His recent surge of excellence has seen his average drop from his season high 3.70 on June 12th, all the way down to where it sits now, in just six games.
In those past six starts he's gone 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA and recorded 56 punch outs.
If Hernandez can continue to roll like this, only divine intervention can block him from hoisting up the Cy Young yet again.
*Stats are from ESPN.com.
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