A few thoughts on Felix and the happy vibe at Safeco
Crazy night at Safeco Field last night and nobody enjoyed it more than the man in the middle of the mayhem, Felix Hernandez. A couple observations, before we move on to today’s 12:40 p.m. series finale with the Indians.
I’ve watched a lot of professoinal athletes over the years and very few have I seen as appreciative of the moment as Hernandez for the entire past week. He’s seemed almost humbled by the perfect game and its aftermath, continually talking about how much he appreciates the outpouring of support from Mariners fans and the organization.
And that all culminated with Tuesday night’s playoff-atmosphere and the crazy sight of 39,204 fans wearing yellow “King of Perfection” shirts and waving their “K” cards every time Felix got two strikes.
It was a scene that clearly affected Felix, who called it “the best game I’ve ever pitched at Safeco Field.” Obviously he wasn’t referring simply to his own performance as it’s pretty tough to top the previous perfect game. This one meant so much to him because of the support, the chants, the people calling his name and letting him know how much they appreciate his performance.
“I got chills,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.’ This is something special.And I really appreciate the Seattle Mariners and these fans. They’ve supported me every year.”
But this night wasn’t just about Felix. His teammates soaked up the same atmosphere, and saw a little bit of what can be in Seattle if they can get to the point of playing meaningful games in a stretch run.
“This is as close to a playoff environment as we’ve had,” said Brendan Ryan. “Pretty awesome. It was nice to see those seats filled up and people having a good time. Felix gave them exactly what they wanted, minus another perfect game.”
It was good to see the team come through in one of those situations. It seems like too often in the past, when the stands filled for Opening Night or some other big moment, the result fell flat. But this time, the Mariners provided a 5-1 win and continued floating out that feeling that a corner is being turned by a club that has won 14 of 15 at home to pull to 60-64.
The playoffs remain a longshot, but not an impossibility. Even if remote, the idea that winning games can mean something in late August matters for a club that seemed lost in last place a month earlier.
“We’re playing the right way,” said Hernandez. “We’re playing good games, the defense is doing its job and it makes you more comfortable out there on the mound. I’m seeing everything. Offense, defense pitching, we’re playing pretty good right now and we’ve got to continue doing that.”
A few of the young players have begun to mention the Wildcard berth as a possibility. Ryan, 30, has been around a little longer, but he dares to dream just a little as well.
“Last year we were kind of trying to play spoiler and all that stuff, but it sure feels like we’re trying to sneak back into this thing,” he said.
That’s the vibe in the Mariners clubhouse at the moment. Winning does that for you. And having Felix on the mound and 39,000 fans going nuts doesn’t hurt either.