Felix Hernandez shares his big day with Jesus Sucre
On any other day where the Mariners picked up the win, reaching 2,000 career strikeouts would be the high point of the game the for Felix Hernandez. On Sunday, though, that milestone and the win took the back seat to a more important occasion in the King’s book.
“This is Mother’s Day so it’s pretty special for me,” he said following the Mariners’ win 4-3 over the A’s, during which he became the fourth-youngest pitcher in MLB history to reach 2,000 strikeouts.
“My mom’s in Venezuela and I miss her so much. I just want to go out there and try to help the team to win and dedicate this game to my mom and my wife.”
Felix wasn’t the only player playing for mom. Jesus Sucre got the rare start Sunday – just the fourth time in his career he’s caught Felix – and said in his on-field interview afterward that getting to play on Mother’s Day had special meaning for him, too.
Felix knew this. Sucre is a friend and Felix saw him go through the heartbreak of losing his mom shortly after reporting to spring training in February. Sucre left the team briefly to attend her funeral and then returned to Arizona to try and win a spot on the opening-day roster.
As the backup catcher, Sucre hasn’t seen much playing time. Day games after night games represent his best chance to get a start, and the possibility of getting a start on Mother’s Day was very real. There was one problem, however: Felix was scheduled to pitch. Over the last year Mike Zunino has caught almost every Felix start. If Felix was scheduled to pitch a day game, Zunino often was given the day off before rather than having him sit out the Felix start.
This start was a little different, however, since Monday is an off day. Manager Lloyd McClendon liked the idea of getting Zunino two days off in a row. Felix was asked if he minded. Knowing what playing on Mother’s Day would mean to Sucre, the answer was easy.
“Put ‘Sucy’ in,” he said.
There is no catcher controversy here. Felix trusts Zunino and likes having him behind the plate. The two have developed a great relationship. At the same time, he had no qualms about going with Sucre and was thrilled that he had a good game on a day that was important to him.
“He did a good job,” Felix told the media after shouting the same to Sucre across the clubhouse. “He made some plays, he called a great game. He’s a good catcher.”
He is a good catcher, and in Felix, he has an incredible teammate.