King Felix happy to share Opening Day success with Safeco crowd
There aren’t many love affairs in sports quite like the one between Felix Hernandez and Mariners fans. And for the first time since 2007, the Mariners ace was able to treat the Safeco Field crowd, and King’s Court, to an Opening Day show.
In his eighth career Opening Day start, Hernandez was nearly as masterful as he’s ever been on the first day of the season. He struck out 10 Angels over seven innings of two-hit ball, his only blemish being a first-inning solo homer surrendered to last season’s MVP, Mike Trout.
Hernandez could barely contain his excitement after the Mariners’ 4-1 win.
“That was amazing. That was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a great experience and the fans were unbelievable. It was awesome.”
He was even willing to say the atmosphere in front of the sold-out crowd of 45,909 beat the last time he pitched in Seattle – 2014’s season finale where was a raucous crowd filled Safeco Field as the Mariners attempted to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
“This one was better. This crowd was awesome,” Hernandez said.
With the victory he improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.34 in Opening Day starts. While he was plenty good, it still wasn’t his best season-opening performance. He registered 12 strikeouts and gave up just two hits over eight innings in his first Opening Day start in 2007 against Oakland, which was also his only other chance to start the season at Safeco.
“It’s a great challenge. You’ve got a lot of eyes on you so you’ve got to do good,” Hernandez said about pitching on Opening Day.
Regarding how he did Monday, Hernandez was satisfied save for one thing.
“It was pretty good, except that homer in the first inning,” he said. “But after that everything was working, I made good pitches, great curveball, great changeup and an excellent fastball.”