Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
It's long seemed just a matter of time for "King Felix", who's been one of the American League's premier starting pitchers since joining the Mariners seven years ago. But Hernández had never pitched a no-hitter.
His closest call came back in 2007, when he pitched a one-hitter against the Red Sox in 2007; that was a close one, as the Sox didn't collect their lone hit until J.D. Drew led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a clean single up the middle.
Just 11 days ago, Hernández pitched one of the best games in his career, a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium. But he followed that with a humdrum outing against the Angels, giving up five runs in seven innings.
Wednesday's perfect game included barely a hiccup. In the top of the fourth inning, Sam Fuld slapped a line drive to third baseman Kyle Seager. In the seventh, Hernández quickly retired the first two Rays, which brought up Matt Joyce. Hernández's first pitch was a high fastball, probably three or four inches outside. Plate umpire Rob Drake called the pitch a strike, Rays manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout and immediately drew his seventh ejection of this season. Maddon argued for a few minutes, after which Hernández got back to work and retired Joyce on a grounder to first base.
He breezed through the eighth inning, striking out Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Peña. That last strikeout, Hernández's 10th in the game, brought a huge roar from the 21,000-some fans in the stands.
Entering the ninth inning, Hernández still had just the 1-0 lead, as Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven strong innings for the Rays and reliever Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect eighth. Hernández would face the bottom of Tampa Bay's order: pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings, pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger, and third baseman Sean Rodriguez.
Hernández struck out Jennings.
Hernández retired Keppinger on an easy grounder to shortstop.
Hernández struck out Rodriguez on a sinker down the middle.
At 3:02 Pacific Daylight Time, it was finished.
In pitching the most brilliant game of his brilliant career, Hernández became the third pitcher this season to throw a perfect game. And that's never happened before.