Felix Hernandez fell just a little short of one more big
accomplishment before his 27th birthday.
Hernandez fell two strikeouts shy Saturday of an elite club of pitching Hall-of-Famers who have notched both 100 wins and 1,500 strikeouts no later than age 26. But Hernandez, who turns 27 Monday, will have to settle for 99 victories and 1,498 strikeouts after his command deserted him in the swirling wind during the defeat Saturday against the White Sox.
"I had the fastball but I didn't have the command," Hernandez said after yielding four earned runs on six hits with a pair of walks -- one intentional -- during the 108-pitch outing. "The command was not there. The wind was hard and just one mistake -- the homer -- that was about it."
That "mistake" saw Hernandez hang an 0-2 changeup to Alex Rios that got crushed for a two-run, tiebreaking homer estimated at 417 feet in distance. Hernandez wanted the pitch to go down and in, but instead left it right down the middle.
"When I don't have my command, it's tough to pitch," he said.
Hernandez said there wasn't much he could do to adjust for the wind other than try to keep pitching like he normally would. And in the end, he said it wasn't all wind-related.
"I don't know if it was the wind," he said. "I'm not going to make excuses. It was me."
With a win and two more strikeouts, Hernandez would have joined Walter Johnson, Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden as the only pitchers in the 100-victory, 1,500-strikeout club before turning 27. No word on what the 150-win, 2,000-strikeout club before age 30 looks like, but it's safe to say Hernandez might have a shot.
--The rough winds -- up to 25 mph at game time -- made life difficult on the outfielders as well. All three starting Mariners outfielders met pregame to discuss strategy so they'd avoid crashing into each other chasing down balls that appeared to be going all over the place.
"It was tough," said Michael Saunders, who started in center field. "All the outfielders were looking at each other. We made sure that I covered left and right. Balls that were hit in the gaps, we were both going for it. The wind was swirling."
The first Chicago run came after a leadoff triple in the fifth by Conor Gillaspie that rocketed over the head of Michael Morse. Morse appeared to hesitate just enough initially that he had no chance to make what would have been an extremely difficult catch even with a great jump.
Left fielder Raul Ibanez at one point caught an Adam Dunn pop-up down the line that he initially felt would be out of play in the stands.
"That ball was 30 feet foul at one point and it came back in," Ibanez said. "You just had to be ready for it."
--The home run Saunders hit off Matt Thornton in the eighth inning was the first one the southpaw has given up to a left-handed hitter since last May 2 against Travis Hafner of the Indians. It was the only home run Thornton gave up to a left-handed batter all of last year.
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