The Rainiers picked up a 7-6 victory in Nashville on Wednesday night, getting a game-winning home run from Carlos Peguero to erase a rather poor performance up to that point.
I’m not going to write about that here today – you can get all of the details in the Rainiers game story link down below.
What we are talking about today is perfect games, and the tangential role Tacoma has played in them.
Felix Hernandez pitched the 23rd perfect game in Major League history yesterday, and we couldn’t be more proud of the former Rainiers star.
Felix opened the 2005 season in Tacoma’s starting rotation, when he was only 18 years old – he turned 19 the first week of the season, on April 8.
All eyes were on Felix that season. It was well-known that he was not only the top prospect on the team (a team that also included Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Morse, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Asdrubal Cabrera), but he was the top pitching prospect in Minor League Baseball at the time.
There was a season-long debate about when he would be ready for the majors. The gist of the argument was this: “He has major league stuff! Yeah, but he’s just a child – he’s 19 years old for crying out loud!”
By August, the time had come. We haven’t seen Felix in Tacoma since, and I sure hope we don’t see him again – unless he comes down for a public appearance or something.
In the years since 2005, Felix Hernandez has become the face of the Seattle Mariners franchise. Not just as the star of the big league team – it’s much deeper than that.
Signing Felix is the crowning achievement of the Mariners international scouting department. They spotted him in his early teen years in Venezuela, and forged relationships with his family to sign him when he became a free agent at age 16.
The Mariners player development staff hangs their hat on Felix as well. They nurtured him along his path to the majors leagues, helping him develop into a star. Both Daren Brown and Dwight Bernard – Tacoma’s manager and pitching coach – worked with Felix at Class-A Inland Empire in 2004.
The whole Mariners organization was grinning from ear-to-ear when Felix finished off the Rays yesterday.
Felix became the first *former* Tacoma player to pitch a perfect game in the majors.
One pitcher came to Tacoma and played *after* throwing a perfect game in the majors: Don Larsen pitched the most famous perfect game of them all, for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.
At the end of his career, Larsen tried to get back to the majors with the Chicago Cubs organization. He has a brief stay with the 1968 Tacoma Cubs, pitching in six games as a reliever before hanging up his spikes.
As for minor league perfect games, Tacoma’s John Halama pitched the first nine-inning perfect game in Pacific Coast League history on July 7, 2001 at Cheney Stadium, against the Calgary Cannons.
This could be a one-of-a-kind situation, but it hasn’t been fully researched yet:
On May 29, 2005, Tacoma played at Fresno. The starting pitchers in that game were Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain. Both went on to become one of 23 pitchers to throw a perfect game in the majors.
Was this the only time in baseball history that both starting pitchers in a minor league game would go on to pitch perfect games in the majors?
We don’t know for sure, but it seems possible.
As for that day in Fresno: each pitcher went five innings. Felix left trailing, 2-0. The Rainiers rallied against the Fresno bullpen and tied it up. In the bottom of the ninth, Mickey Lopez – a former Rainiers and Mariners infielder playing for Fresno – hit a walk-off three-run homer. Here is the box score.
We have a Rainiers game tonight in Nashville at 5:05 (Pacific). Tacoma starts RHP D.J. Mitchell (0-2, 3.63) against Nashville RHP Wily Peralta (6-10, 4.95). The broadcast airs on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streams online right here.
Felix Hernandez Perfect Game Links:
- Seattle Times – Larry Stone has the game story, and a column about his personal 27-year streak ending. Steve Kelley has a column about the inevitableness of it all. Jerry Brewer got reaction from the Tampa players even though he was sitting on his couch for the first six innings.
- The News Tribune – a game story by Larry LaRue; a notebook with reaction from Felix’s teammates; a terrific photo gallery and slide show; an excellent column by John McGrath, who was covering a horse racing event and found himself in a bar in Auburn called “Home Plate” watching the end of the game,
- Buster Olney (subscription required) writes about Felix and his “transcendent gift” and makes a parallel to Mozart. Really!
- Bradley Woodrum from Fangraphs has a piece up about the pitch selection that Felix and John Jaso used.
- Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated takes a “big picture” view of the game.
- Former Mariners beat writer John Hickey filed a special report for ESPN.com, in which he talks about how Felix is the face of the franchise.
- MLB.com put up video of every out of the perfect game.
- Here is my Rainiers game story from The News Tribune, about how Carlos Peguero and the Rainiers bullpen turned a potentially ugly loss into a 7-6 win over Nashville last night.
- The Albuquerque Isotopes have a new name: the Albuquerque Sons Of Major Leaguers. They beat the Sky Sox yesterday, 11-5.
- Round Rock crushed Reno, 14-1, as Leonys Martin had four hits. The Aces are struggling and have lost five in a row.
- Is Salt Lake back in the race? The Bees won at Memphis, 5-2, and have won 11 of the last 13 games to pull within six games of Reno.
- The Las Vegas 51s edged Omaha, 3-2. The paper focused on Omaha second baseman Johnny Giavotella.
- Elih Villanueva and the New Orleans Zephyrs shut out Sacramento, 3-0.
- Tucson outfielder Blake Tekotte is trying to find his swing, and the Padres were shut out by Iowa.
- Ex-Rainiers abound in the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions: Tampa released Matt Mangini and the Reds signed him, the Rockies signed Jeff Marquez, and the Mariners released Matt Fox and Ralph Henriquez from Double-A Jackson.
- Funny how fate won’t let us bask in only the good news. Today also includes an update on the Greg Halman trial.
It’s heating up in Nashville – we’ve been lucky with the weather on this trip up until now.