When Felix Hernandez struck out Sean Rodriguez to notch the first perfect game in Seattle Mariners franchise history, it felt somehow predictable.
I realize that saying a perfect game, which has happened only 22 times in the history of Major League Baseball, felt predictable sounds crazy, but when you look at King Felix's body of work—and especially his recent dominance—this one was bound to happen.
While Hernandez has toiled in relative obscurity since his Mariners debut as a 19-year-old phenom in 2006, attentive fans know that he's been one of baseball's most dominant starters since he first took the mound. His career ERA of 2.74 is impressive enough, but when you consider his otherworldly durability—Hernandez has thrown at least 190 innings in every full season of his career—it becomes clear that he's always been among the game's upper echelon of aces.
Recently, though, Hernandez has taken his game to another level. Coming into today's contest, Hernandez had thrown complete-game shutouts in three of his last eight starts, each one more dominant than the last.
Against the Boston Red Sox on June 28, Hernandez allowed five hits and a walk while racking up 13 strikeouts.
Then, on July 14, he shut out the mighty Texas Rangers, one of baseball's best offenses. This time, Felix allowed just three hits. He struck out 12 and didn't walk a soul.
Hernandez cut his hits allowed again when he shut down the New York Yankees—who, by the way, are the only team with an offense that might be better than Texas'. King Felix allowed just two hits this time, along with two walks. He struck out six.
And then he took the mound against Tampa Bay today.
Felix was almost as efficient as he was dominant against the Rays at Safeco Field. He needed just 113 pitches, 77 of which he threw for strikes, to mow down 27 Rays hitters in order. Hernandez struck out 12, including six of the last nine he faced.
His changeup fell off the table, and his slider paralyzed right-handers. He touched 96 miles per hour with his four-seamer, and kept hitters off balance with a nasty two-seamer that nobody could lay off.
Put simply, Hernandez has been pretty darn dominant for most of his career and has been especially so lately. Against the Rays on Wednesday, he was unhittable—literally.
Perfection had been just over the horizon for King Felix, but he finally tossed the most spectacular gem of his career. A perfect game had been a long time coming for Hernandez, and as scary as it sounds, he's only getting better.
Who knows what he'll do next...