Felix Hernandez has been called the "king" for almost as long as he's been in the public eye, but it wasn't until Wednesday afternoon that the big Seattle Mariners righthander received his true crowning moment. And talk about a grand and extended coronation. A Tampa Bay Rays batter marched to the plate at Safeco Field 27 times. And 27 times a Rays batter marched back to the dugout as Hernandez completed a perfect game in a 1-0 Mariners victory. It was the first perfect game and no-hitter of the 2010 AL Cy Young winner's eight -year career and just the 23rd in major league history.
''I don't have any words to explain this,'' Hernandez said to the crowd, speaking on the field after the final out. ''I've been working so hard to throw one and today is for you guys.''
Hernandez struck out 12 batters during the game and struck out the side in both the sixth and eighth innings. The final out came as Sean Rodriguez looked at a called strike three, sending the King's arms toward the sky and his faithful Safeco Field "court" into a frenzy.
A few other items:
• Hernandez became the third pitcher to throw a perfect game this season, joining Chicago's Philip Humber (who also did it during an afternoon game at Safeco Field) and San Francisco's Matt Cain. Three perfect games in one year is a record, passing the two that Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden threw in 2010. No other year has featured more than one.
• Hernandez is only the second pitcher from Latin America to throw a perfect game, joining Dennis Martinez,who threw a perfect game for Montreal in 1991.
• That's the third time in four years that the Rays have been on the losing end of a perfect game. They were also "perfect gamed" by Mark Buehrle in 2009 and Braden in 2010. They were also no-hit by Edwin Jackson in 2010 for good measure.
• In a weird twist, Hernandez's perfect game came on the same day that two other perfect game pitchers — Buehrle and Roy Halladay — faced off. According to Elias, it was only the 12th such meeting in baseball history. Buehrle was victorious in a 9-2 Miami win.
• Six Mariners pitchers also combined to throw a no-hitter on June 8. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it's the first time an American League team has thrown two no-hitters in the same season since Nolan Ryan took care of both for the 1973 Angels. Roy Halladay was the last to do it overall with his perfect game and postseason no-hitter in 2010.
• Hernandez has always been one of those pitchers who carry the reputation of being able to throw a no-hitter or perfect game any time he goes out. But it's interesting to note that he's only thrown one complete game one-hitter in his career and that came against Boston on April 11, 2007.
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