Yes, Felix Hernandez is getting the lead bullet today — but it's going to be a tidy one. What is left to debate on Hernandez, anyway? We all know he's an elite pitcher. We all see the accrued and potential greatness here.
With all due respect to the parade of perfect games and no-hitters this year, Hernandez's perfecto against Tampa Bay on Wednesday clearly stands No. 1 on my list. The King needed just 113 pitches to finish the job (collecting 12 strikeouts along the way), and while the Mariners made a couple of fine plays behind him, there was no true web gem needed, no defensive moment that will crystallize in your mind. I didn't feel a sense of tension in the late innings; this one felt like a fait accompli. Soak in the highlights, preserve the memory.
It's the third no-hitter at Safeco Field this year, though it didn't feel like the park had much to do with Wednesday's event. Look at all those feeble swings again. But The Safe probably flexed its muscles in the other two no-nos this year. Philip Humber threw a perfect game out of nowhere back in April (the infamous Foxblock Perfecto), and then the Mariners had the All Hands on Deck no-no in early June, when six pitchers put away the Dodgers.
If you peruse the 2012 Park Factors for a moment, you appreciate the blunting effects of Safeco. The Seattle yard is the hardest place to score this year, followed by AT&T Park, PNC Park, Petco Park, The Big A, and whatever they're calling Oakland's stadium this year. We'll keep streaming Seattle pitchers down the stretch, for and against.
More good times should be on the way for Hernandez: he's at home against Cleveland next, and then in Minnesota for a date with the Twins. Nothing scary about that schedule. And even if the Mariners skip the fifth man and use Hernandez at Chicago next weekend (in place of the Minnesota start), there's obviously no logical reason to worry. You know who he is.
The September schedule looks reasonable as well. The Mariners visit Toronto and Texas one week, playing three games in each location, but that's the only scary part of the finishing slate.
• Now we segue to Coors Field, the offensive amusement park of the league. Go look at those Park Factors again. Thin air rules the world.
The Rockies just finished off a three-game sweep of the Brewers, rolling up 24 runs in the victories. Leadoff man Eric Young has been the key ignitor this month, on a 23-for-51 barrage with three homers, two steals and 12 runs scored. Young went deep in Wednesday's finale, and he scored the winning run in the ninth, showcasing his dazzling speed. He's the No. 6 batter in Yahoo's game over the last two weeks, and he carries two positions of eligibility.
We can't shake the obvious caveats, of course: Jim Tracy is a flake when it comes to the lineup card, and Young's never proven to be trustable as a regular (though he's still just 27). We're looking at a small sample of data, sure. But when you see a potential offensive stud doing his thing in the best offensive park in the league, you can't help but get excited. Young's ownership level has started to pick up in recent days, but he's still unclaimed freight in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Michael Cuddyer's return from the DL complicates Young's playing time, as it gives the Rockies one more mouth to feed in their offense. But Tracy claims Young's spot in the lineup is secure for now, in right field; Cuddyer will slide into the first base spot. Sorry about that, Tyler Colvin. I know Tracy's juggling act has burned many a roto owner in the past (there's no need to revisit the Colvin Story), but you can't play this game scared. If the team ever leaves Young along, he has the capability of being a multiple-category stud. Let's see where the story goes.
• While Colvin might be headed back to the bench, he shouldn't feel bad about his recent production. He went 4-for-8 in the Milwaukee series (with a walk and a steal), and his two-run double Wednesday flipped the result in the last of the ninth. Party time for everyone — well, everyone who isn't trying to bleed saves from the Milwaukee bullpen.
Jim Henderson was the losing pitcher for the Brewers, picking up his second loss in five days and his first blown save of the year. A mess at Coors Field is understandable, sure, and Henderson's loss at Houston came during an extended outing that went into a second inning. But with John Axford working two clean, if brief, outings in Colorado (three outs, two by strikeout, one hit allowed), perhaps he's back at the top of this team's committee listing. Like most of you, this is a story I'm absolutely sick of tracking. If I had to pick one of these guys going forward, I'd still go with Henderson . . . but with zero confidence.
Are you sure Dale Thayer isn't meandering around your waiver wire? Grant Balfour, anyone? Can you page Andrew Bailey to a house phone? Just get me out of Milwaukee, please.
• A bunch of aces are coming out on Friday, so it's not the best streaming slate. I would not start Tommy Hanson right off the DL; that's just a general principle with me. James McDonald can't be trusted at St. Louis. I don't like what Phil Hughes has done in his career against Boston. And even Tommy Milone has faded on us, so I won't use him at home against Cleveland. Wade LeBlanc is an obvious no-go at Colorado.
Ross Detwiler against the Mets? I can roll with that. Otherwise, let's wait for better spots.