Thursday, August 16, 2012

Felix Hernandez Throws Perfect Game for Mariners; Mike Leake, Todd Frazier Keep Red-Hot Reds Rolling

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 15, 2012

American League

27 up, 27 down.

That's how Felix Hernandez handled the Tampa Bay Rays on a rare sunny afternoon in Seattle, setting down the Rays in order for the third perfect game this season, a 1-0 victory for Seattle, and the first perfect game in the Mariners' 34-year franchise history.

Hernandez joins Philip Humber of the White Sox and the Giants' Matt Cain as perfect hurlers in 2012, a year in which there have also been three other no-hitters.

This is the first time there have been three perfect games in a single season, and the total no-hitters is one off the modern record of seven in a single season, set in 1990 and again, in 1991. In 1884, under rules that differ widely from today's game, pitchers accounted for eight no-hitters.

Hernandez dominated the Rays from start to finish, throwing mostly breaking balls that Tampa hitters desperately flailed at throughout the game. Over the first three innings, Hernandez recorded two outs on strikeouts, three on fly balls and four ground outs.

Hernandez: Perfect
Then he really started to heat up, his breaking ball swerving across and around home plate to the discomfort of Rays' batters. He struck out two in the fourth inning, then got the side out swinging in the sixth. In the seventh, three ground ball outs were all the Rays could muster, and Hernandez fanned the side again in the eighth.

Desmond Jennings swung and missed at strike three to open the ninth, Jeff Keppinger grounded out to short for the second out, and King Felix finished with a flair, getting Sean Rodriguez looking on a fast ball to end the game and enter the history books.

Hernandez struck out 12 overall, all of them swinging except for the final out of the game. The sharp curves had the Rays fooled, as Hernandez threw 115 pitches, of which only 73 went for strikes. His perfect game was the 23rd in MLB history.

Improving to 11-5, Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young award recipient, lowered his ERA to 2.60, tied for fourth best for starters in the league with Chicago's Chris Sale. His 12 Ks upped his total to 174, tying him for second in that department with Justin Verlander. Max Scherzer leads the league with 178.

The Mariners, hopelessly out of the running for the playoffs and en route to their 11th straight losing season, slowed down the Rays, handing them their second straight loss after Tampa Bay had won seven in a row. The Rays dropped back to third place in the AL East, a game behind Baltimore and seven back of the division-leading Yankees. The O's and Rays are the current leaders in the wild card race.

National League

While not quite the effort of Felix Hernandez, Cincinnati's Mike Leake pitched a whale of a game in the Reds' 6-1 win over the Mets, allowing four hits and one earned in his second complete game of the season.

Mike Leake
Leake, 5-7, out-dueled Mets' knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, striking out four wihtout issuing a walk as the Reds took their second straight at Citi Field. Leake also aided his own cause at the plate, singling home Todd Frazier in the seventh inning.
Todd Frazier

The Mets only run came in the fourth inning, when Leake got into a bit of a jam, giving up consecutive singles with no outs and putting runners at first and third, before inducing a double play hit into by Daniel Murphy and getting David Wright on a line out to end the inning. That tied the game at 1-1, but the Reds responded in the bottom of the frame with back-to-back home runs by Scott Rolen and Todd Frazier, putting Cincinnati on top, 3-1, a lead they would not relinquish.

Frazier, a replacement for injured Joey Votto, has been a godsend to the Reds. He was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs in the win, and is hitting .286 with 15 homers and 49 RBI in just 290 at-bats.

Since the all star break, the Reds have been absolutely on fire, winning 24 of 32 games, despite a five game losing streak last week. With their win over the Mets they've won five straight and lead the Pirates and Cardinals by seven games in the NL Central.

The series with the Mets wraps up Thursday night at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Reds will be looking for the sweep.

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