Felix Hernandez takes back his house in Mariners’ win over Toronto
Wednesday afternoon, Felix Hernandez let the visitors from the north who had taken over Safeco Field the previous two days know that they had overstayed their welcome.
“This is my house!” he roared while coming off the mound after facing his final batter in the Mariners’ 2-1 win over Toronto, pointing to the ground for emphasis. “MY HOUSE!”
That message was for the visiting fans. The team on the other side got the message in a different manner, namely seven scoreless innings in which Felix allowed just two hits. This was not the same Felix we saw in his previous four starts, the one who allowed 17 earned runs over 20 innings. This was the Felix that manager Scott Servais had hoped to see when the team most desperately needed a win.
“Backs against the wall, you kind of have to have this game if you want to stay in there,” Servais said, “and Felix really stepped up his game.”
The results for Felix didn’t just happen. He knew something had to change after his recent starts and the first thing he did was alter his routine by throwing an actual bullpen from the mound between starts rather than his usual flat-ground session.
“I don’t like to throw a bullpen, you know. This is not me,” he said of the mound session, “but I went there and worked my stuff and tried to stay closed and tried to be in time to the rubber and just follow through to home plate. It helps. It gave me a better feel. I was working with (pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.) in the bullpen and he told me a few things, and he was right.”
With command of his full arsenal, Felix was able to reclaim not only Safeco Field but also home plate from the Blue Jays, who had been allowed to get comfortable there the past two days.
“In the first two games of the series, we didn’t do a good job of getting them off the ball away,” Servais said. “Felix and (catcher Jesus Sucre) knew we had to do that today – Mel’s been harping on it – and they did. We threw a number of balls in to keep them honest, open up the outer half. You have to have it against this team because they can really hit.”
Felix pointed to being able to pitch in and out to the Blue Jays’ hitters as being key to keeping them off balance, but we also saw him go upstairs a bit with his fastball, something he hasn’t done very often in the past. He was comfortable with the changes, however, and realized they were necessary both for him and his team.
“We lost the first and second games of the series and I knew I had to step my game up, he said. “I want to win so bad. I went out there with all my confidence, I know the hitters, I followed Sucre the whole game – I think I shook him off twice – and I worked quickly.”
He also took a little extra edge to the hill. Perhaps no one appreciated the spectacle caused by the invasion of Blue Jays fans the previous two days less than Felix.
“I saw all the fans, Blue Jays, Taijuan (Walker) threw first and they are booing Taijuan and I was like, ‘What’s going on here? We are in Seattle. We are not in Toronto.’ That’s why I said, ‘This is my house.'”
Felix said that heading into Wednesday’s game, the entire team was angry about the Toronto takeover. Things got personal when he stepped on the field.
“I saw all the Blue Jay fans, I throw to first and they are booing me. I am, ‘Come on, this is Seattle. This is not Toronto,'” Felix said. “King’s Court was the shortest King’s Court I have ever seen. I never heard the King’s Court. I know I have to step up more. That’s why I yelled, ‘This is my house.'”
Felix is tentatively scheduled to pitch the last game of the regular season in that house. He is hoping that will not be his last start at “home” this year.
“We still have a chance,” he said. “We still have a chance. We just continue how we played today and see what happens.”