Safe to say Felix Hernandez has taken that next step

Felix

The date was a Saturday in early May, the 9th to be exact. A rather innocuous day compared to the other 161 on the schedule. On this day the Mariners were in Minnesota to start a three game series with the Twins, their ace Felix Hernandez set to take the mound. The Mariners were in the midst of a five-game losing skid, while the Twins were fighting to keep pace in the central.

An undistinguished day in the grand scheme but for Felix Hernandez perhaps the shock to the system that he needed.

Hernandez would go on to give up six earned runs in four innings before being pulled, both lows for his season now with 19 starts. The Mariners offense behind early, kept fighting back to pull within a run yet their ace couldn’t keep the other offense at bay to allow the M’s to overcome.

We flash back to the present a full two months later and that day could’ve never happened for how well Hernandez has been performing since that forgettable start.

In his last 10 starts — taking him back to late May — Hernandez has gone seven innings each and every time with an earned run average of 1.30. Opponents are hitting almost as bad as Ronny Cedeno is currently — about a buck 80.

It’s a stretch run that fans of the Mariners and Hernandez have somewhat impatiently been waiting for. But can you blame them? With the tremendous promise that he so often has flashed throughout his four prior full seasons, fans and journalists alike couldn’t help but expect big things with each new season.

Well, it’s safe to say that you can wait no longer. Hernandez has arrived and boy does he look as impressive as anyone could have hoped for.

On Friday night, Hernandez struggled with the command of his fastball against the Cleveland Indians. In fact he threw first strike pitches to less than a third of the hitters he faced all night and yet he yielded just one walk and five hits through eight innings.

These days, even when Hernandez is off his game he remains proverbially ON his game.

Having officially taken that next step, Hernandez is now one of the top two or three starters in the American League, right up there with Roy Halladay and Zach Greinke. Mariners fans — and the rest of baseball fans alike — can anticipate 20-win seasons, an ERA hovering around 2.50 and Cy Young Awards to consistently have his name in consideration if not his to claim.

It is safe to say the King has officially arrived.

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