Marte’s Timely Blast Secures Team Record for King Felix
“K Section” had something to cheer about Monday night at Safeco Field in Seattle as starting pitcher “King Felix” Hernandez earned his 146th career victory as a member of the Mariners, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2. The right-handed superstar became the winningest pitcher in the history of the young franchise, surpassing Jamie Moyer‘s 145 wins in a Mariners uniform.
The Rays’ Evan Longoria had tied the game 2-2 with a solo home run to center field in the fifth. Felix worked a quiet sixth inning and appeared to be headed to a no-decision with the game deadlocked. In a true moment of drama, sophomore shortstop Ketel Marte drove a three-run home run off Steve Geltz to right-center in the bottom of the sixth to put Hernandez in a position for the win. Dana Eveland, responsible for the base runners, was on the hook for the loss.
The Mariners (19-13) veteran starter finished his night with seven innings pitched, four hits, two runs, four strikeouts, and two walks. Relievers Joel Peralta and Steve Cishek then held the Rays (15-15) scoreless for the duration to clinch the milestone victory for the King.
Marte not only produced the game-winning blast, he had two doubles among his four hits to steal a little of the veteran pitcher’s spotlight. The left-handed batting infielder was hitting .297 after Monday’s game with 16 runs scored and 10 RBI in 30 games. The home run was his first of the season.
The record-setting win is a boost for Hernandez (146-103 career W-L). Analysts have cited a loss in fastball velocity and swing and miss rate as concerns, though his 2016 numbers thus far are solid: A 3-2 record with a 2.27 ERA and 33 strikeouts, 32 hits and 20 walks in 43.2 innings pitched. The popular right-hander turned 30 years old last month, an age when many good ballplayers enter the decline phase of their careers. Pitchers that remain healthy and adopt new strategies, however, are capable of long and productive careers (Moyer is the example par excellence).
The Mariners joined the American League in the 1977 expansion that also brought Major League Baseball to Toronto. Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson won 130 of his 303 career wins in a Mariners uniform. If King Felix stays healthy and retains his customary form, his likeness may one day wear the M’s cap in Cooperstown.