Where does this gem rank in Felix’s collection?
Eric Wedge called it “the most impressive start I’ve ever seen as a manager,” the way Felix Hernandez controlled the Yankees in a two-hit shutout Saturday in the Bronx. And no doubt, the King was in command in this one, needing just 101 pitches while issuing two walks with six strikeouts in the 1-0 win.
You can read all about it here in my game story, complete with Derek Jeter noting that Felix was just “better than us” on this day. Of course, he’s been better than the Yankees many days as he seems to sparkle a little brighter than usual every time he faces them.
Just how did this one compare to Hernandez’s best ever? He seemed unsure himself, noting he’s pitched a lot of good games over the years. He’s yet to throw a no-hitter, though that’s clearly high on his bucket list. He had one one-hitter, that coming in a 3-0 victory at Boston on April 11, 2007 when he walked two and struck out six on 111 pitches.
He’s had three previous two-hitters, including one at Yankee Stadium on June 30, 2010 when he walked three and struck out 11 in a 7-0 win while throwing 115 pitches.
He also two-hit the Padres at Petco Park on June 16, 2009, with four walks and six strikeouts in a 5-0 win that required 117 pitches. And he lost a two-hitter at Toronto on Sept. 23, 2010 when he walked four and struck out five. That was an eight-inning complete game as he took a 1-0 defeat.
Wedge correctly noted that winning a 1-0 game — particularly at Yankee Stadium — takes a little something beyond special. The Yankees lead the Majors in home runs and as we saw again Friday with Eric Chavez’s two-run shot against Kevin Millwood, a high fly can turn into a home run pretty easily at The Stadium.
Walking that tight rope for nine innings is no easy task. And as I can readily attest after taking the subway back and forth to the game today from Manhattan, this was a very muggy day in New York and Hernandez had to deal with the heat as well.
What’s interesting to me is that all five of Hernandez’s lowest-hit games — the one-hitter and four two-hitters — have come on the road. Even while throwing half his games in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, he’s yet to dominate a game on that level in Seattle.
But I’m pretty sure that’s only a matter of time. Hernandez has special stuff right now. He’s dominating very good teams these days — the three shutouts in his last eight starts coming against the Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees. That in itself is pretty incredible, as is his 6-0 record with a 1.41 ERA– with 75 strikeouts and 14 walks in 76 1/3 innings – over his past 10 outings.
So while whether this was Felix’s best start ever is a matter of debate, there seems little question that right now he’s pitching as well as ever for a six-week stretch of games. That’s a pretty easy truth, because you can’t get much better.