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Drayer: King Félix had Boston’s number in 2 different gems for Mariners

Félix Hernández stole the spotlight in Daisuke Matsuzaka's home debut. (Getty)

With baseball season delayed for the foreseeable future, 710 ESPN Seattle is broadcasting classic Mariners games throughout the spring. At 7 p.m. tonight we turn to one of Félix Hernández’s gems from a stellar 2012 All-Star season. Here’s Shannon Drayer’s preview of Félix dominating the Boston Red Sox.

June 28, 2012

Félix Week.

Seven days of Félix Hernández starts, and right off the bat we have controversy as my favorite performance is not one of those seven games. No, I’m not talking about the perfect game which you will also not hear this week as we ran it last month, but rather a game that took place very early in Felix’s career.

At first I thought I would be writing about that game as the schedule read “Félix 1-0 vs BOS.” So far, so good. The next line however, “June 28, 2012,” drew a big “huh” from me and a quick look for the other Felix 1-0 win over the Red Sox. Much to my dismay, it wasn’t listed.

Producer/engineer Gary Hill, who is responsible for putting together this schedule, had some explaining to do. Unfortunately, he had a good but terrible answer.

A copy of the radio broadcast of my favorite Felix start, to our knowledge, does not exist. As mentioned in the story of how a copy of the broadcast of the first Mariners game was found, consistently recording and (almost as important) keeping years of game broadcasts did not become a thing until more recently. Games from that era were often saved to CDs and sometimes those CDs got recorded over.

So we have a 1-0 Félix win over the Red Sox, but not the 1-0 win over Boston that I hold above all other Félix starts. That game took place April 11, 2007 at Fenway Park with Hernández, just three days past his 21st birthday, firing a one-hitter against the Red Sox in the much anticipated home debut of their big offseason acquisition Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The game came less than a week after the Mariners had four games snowed out against the Indians in Cleveland, two days after the opener of the series in Boston was sleeted out. It had been anything but business as usual that week with weather proving to be the Mariners’ biggest foe.

The Mariners opened at home under the safety of the Safeco Field roof with Félix winning his first ever opening day start, throwing eight innings of three-hit shutout ball with 12 strikeouts against the A’s to becom the first opening day starter since Bob Gibson to strike out 12 and allow no runs. His next start was scratched because of the snow in Cleveland. With an off day scheduled upon their return home from the chilly road trip, the Mariners moved Félix up to the finale in Boston to avoid having him sit too long.

While the spotlight was big on the opening day game in Seattle, this was off the charts with Matsuzaka’s debut not just televised locally but internationally as well by multiple outlets. Getting picked up by Japanese TV was big news with a showdown between Matsuzaka and Ichiro a highly anticipated event. This meant little to Félix, who was more focused on the fact that Venezuelan TV would broadcast the game as well and with that came the rare opportunity for his mother to see him pitch.

“I knew the game was going to be a big game,” he said after. “It was a special night for me.”

In the Red Sox, Félix was facing a team that would go on to win the World Series that year and had averaged over six runs at home the year before. A veteran lineup that could produce challenges at every turn. On this night they had no answers for young Félix Hernández, who David Ortiz declared to be “impossible to hit.”

Almost impossible. On the first pitch of the eighth inning – the 86th thrown by Félix – J.D. Drew got the ball by a diving Jose Lopez for a clean single, the only hit of the night for Boston. Félix shouted at himself and smacked his glove as the ball got through, took a moment to gather himself and complete the game. Afterwards in the roped off concourse in front of the cramped visiting clubhouse, Félix called his mom before speaking with the media, who were waiting just a few feet away. An emotional Félix then hugged team officials and completed his interviews, clearly thrilled with what had transpired.

Across the diamond, in the home clubhouse, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona insisted that Félix had not been lost in the Matsuzaka leadup hype.

“Flying under the radar? Not for me. He has some of the most explosive stuff in the game,” Francon said of Hernández.

It was a tremendous performance made all the better by the fact that it came so early in his career against one of the better offenses in the league. If your imagination to what Félix could possibly do going forward had been sparked before, this was the full powder keg. The fact that it came with the full Félix showing of emotion and charisma both on and off the field and on the national stage? Bonus. It was a great ending to a crazy first road trip in 2007 and ultimately my favorite Félix Hernándezperformance.

Of course that is not the game we are running tonight on Mariners Classics. Instead, another gem against the Red Sox, this one at home in 2012. Do you like strikeout Félix? Then you will appreciate this game.

LINEUPS!

Red Sox

Daniel Nava, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Cody Ross, RF
Ryan Kalish, CF
Mike Aviles, SS

Franklin Morales, P

Mariners

Ichiro, RF
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Jesus Montero, DH
Casper Wells, LF
Justin Smoak, 1B
Miguel Olivo, C
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Brendan Ryan, SS

Félix Hernández, P

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