Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years.
As it turns out, however, the 28-year-old is on pace to have his best seasons yet. Sunday was a perfect example.
He struck out a career-high 15 batters and lowered his ERA for the season to 2.39.
He did it with the type of change-up that essentially no hitter can reach, because it fakes them all out. That's why he struck out 12 batters swinging and 10 of those swinging strikeouts came off his biggest weapon, the change-up.
"That changeup was a fastball until the last moment, then it became a changeup," Maddon told The Associated Press. "The man was outstanding."
Hernandez's best season, to this point, was probably 2009. That year, he went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
The next year, he went 13-12 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.06 WHIP and took home the AL Cy Young with the lowest win total ever for a Cy Young winner. He did it on a last-place team.
This year, he might be pitching even better.
So far, he is 8-1 with a 2.39 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 98 innings. He's won three straight decisions, which is two short of a team record.
Oddly enough, his seven scoreless innings didn't even earn him a win on Sunday as Rays starter Chris Archer held the Mariners scoreless during that stretch too.
Hernandez also reached two more milestones in the game, with his 29th double-digit strikeout game and his 1,800th career strikeout.
One of the more impressive marks of Hernandez's season, to this point, is that he's allowed just three home runs. The lowest total in a full season to this point was the 14 he allowed in 2012.
That was the same season he threw a perfect game, against the Rays.
Speaking of that perfect game, Rays manager Joe Maddon brought it up after the game.
“I think he was even better than the perfect game stuff,” Maddon told the Seattle Times. “He was that outstanding.”
Hernandez understood how special it was, too, especially after he said he was throwing so poorly in warmups, when his changeup wasn't moving and nothing seemed to be going right.
“Everything was working,” Hernandez told the Seattle Times. “I was throwing a lot of strikes. My changeup was unbelievable. My slider was really good, too. I was getting ahead early.”
It looks as if Hernandez keeps getting better, and his change-up keeps getting more effective, as LookoutLanding documented early in the season. It's scary how good he has looked and how good he might get.
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