Felix Hernandez tosses MLB's 23rd perfecto


Felix Hernandez tosses MLB's 23rd perfecto

From Comcast SportsNet
SEATTLE (AP) -- As he rode down in the crowded elevator wearing a wide grin after watching Felix Hernandez twirl baseball history, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik felt like having a little fun. He pulled out his cellphone, held it to his ear and listened for a moment. "No, we're not trading Felix Hernandez," Zduriencik jokingly said into his phone. Not after Wednesday. Not anytime soon. Hernandez pitched the Seattle Mariners' first perfect game and the 23rd in baseball history, overpowering the Tampa Bay Rays in a brilliant 1-0 victory Wednesday. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner has never hid his desire for pitching perfection. For a franchise on its way to an 11th straight season without a playoff appearance, Hernandez is the one constant keeping fans interested in Mariners baseball. Hernandez (11-5) rewarded those fans with a 12-strikeout gem on Wednesday afternoon. He baffled the Rays using his sharp curve and blistering fastball to keep the Rays guessing all day. It finally culminated in the ninth inning when Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings, got pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger to ground out and closed out the perfecto by falling behind Sean Rodriguez 2-0 and then throwing three perfect pitches. His teammates had spent most of the game leaving Hernandez to himself, but after the right-hander was done pointing at the sky, he was engulfed in celebration. "It was always in my mind, every game. I need to throw a perfect game.' For every pitcher I think it's in their mind," Hernandez said. "Today it happened and it's something special. I don't have any words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. It doesn't happen every day." It was the third perfect game in baseball this season -- a first -- joining gems by Chicago's Philip Humber against the Mariners in April and San Francisco's Matt Cain versus Houston in June. More than half of all perfectos -- 12 -- have come in the last 25 seasons. This also was the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season, three of them at Safeco Field. Humber threw his gem in Seattle, then six Mariners pitchers combined to hold the Los Angeles Dodgers hitless at the park on June 8. There have been seven no-hitters in a season twice since 1900. It happened in 1990 and again in 1991, with Nolan Ryan throwing one in each of those years. For the Rays, it was an all-too-familiar feeling. This was the third time in four seasons they had a perfect game pitched against them, following efforts by Dallas Braden in 2010 and Mark Buehrle in 2009. "The one thing I've learned is that no-hitters and perfect games don't mean anything about tomorrow, anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. Hernandez's dominance got stronger as the game progressed. He cruised for five innings, then pitched through tough at-bats, delay tactics and the mounting pressure of perfection to close out the gem. Hernandez struck out 12, including eight in the final four innings. He struck out the side in the sixth, did it again in the eighth and hit as high as 95 mph in the ninth. Two starts earlier against the New York Yankees, Hernandez tossed a two-hit shutout, leading Seattle manager Eric Wedge to call it the finest outing he's seen from Hernandez. Suffice to say, Wednesday was better. "It was special. He had special stuff," Wedge said. "But Felix is so consistently good that when he does take it up to another level, which we've seen him do through the course of the year, you never know how it's going to turn out." It was the seventh perfect game won 1-0, thanks largely to the hustle of shortstop Brendan Ryan. He led off the third with his first hit in 10 at-bats against Jeremy Hellickson (7-8), a sharp single to left. He was still at first with two outs when he got a great jump on a curveball that bounced in the dirt and escaped catcher Jose Lobaton. Ryan never hesitated at second and made it all the way to third. He then jogged home when Jesus Montero followed with a single to left. Ryan also had a defensive hand in keeping Hernandez perfect. B.J. Upton hit a grounder in the seventh that third baseman Kyle Seager dived toward but let go past. Ryan was there in the hole to field the bouncer and threw out Upton. The other impressive defensive play came on the first batter of the game when Eric Thames tracked down Sam Fuld's drive in deep right-center field. That's how strong Hernandez was. Only five of the 27 outs were recorded by the outfield. "You could throw any lineup out there today," Seattle catcher John Jaso said, "and it's close to the same result." Tampa Bay seemed to try another technique to disrupt Hernandez, and that also failed. With two outs in the seventh, Maddon came out to argue after plate umpire Rob Drake called strike one on a borderline pitch to Matt Joyce. Maddon stuck around for a minute or so to argue, finally getting ejected. When he left, Hernandez was still right in rhythm. "I was yelling at Joe to get ... out of there," Wedge said. It was the second no-hitter this season for the Mariners -- doubling the franchise's total entering the year -- and third total at Safeco Field after the park went more than a dozen years without one. After Humber's perfect game, a six-pack of Seattle pitchers tossed a combined no-hitter against the Dodgers in June. The six no-hitters is two shy of the record set in 1884, one short of the total in each of the 1990 and 1991 seasons. "Hard to believe. It's hard to believe," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Struck out five of the last six hitters. That's pretty good." NOTES: Seattle's last individual no-hitter came when Chris Bosio shut down Boston on April 22, 1993. Seattle's other no-hitter was thrown by Randy Johnson against Detroit on June 2, 1990. ... Tampa Bay was no-hit for the fifth time in franchise history. ... Maddon's ejection was his second of the season. ... Maddon said the team plans to keep INF Luke Scott on his rehab assignment in the minors through the weekend. Scott has been on the DL with an oblique strain.

Quick Links

Five reasons why it will take more than a bye week to fix the Ravens' woes

Five reasons why it will take more than a bye week to fix the Ravens' woes

Taking a four-game losing streak into their bye week, the Ravens (3-4) are reeling.

After starting the season with three consecutive wins, the Ravens have dropped four straight, including a woeful Week 7 loss to the Jets in which the team blew a 10-0 lead. 

The best news for the Ravens is that the AFC North remains a three-team race among the Steelers (4-3), Bengals (3-4), and Ravens.

However, here are five reasons why the Ravens will need more than a bye week to fix what’s wrong:


1. The offense has been inept all season.

In four of their seven games, the Ravens have scored just one touchdown. Firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman two games ago didn’t fix it. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can tweak the offense during the bye, but he can’t change the players. The offensive issues with this team run far deeper than the coordinator.

“It’s never too late, but we have to put it together and put it together fast,” said tight end Dennis Pitta.

2. Lack of speed in the secondary is leading to big plays.

For two straight weeks, two fleet receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants and Quincy Enunwa of the Jets, have taking a short pass and turned it into a long touchdown. Ravens safety Lardarius Webb was blown by both times, and the hamstring injury suffered by Webb on Sunday could lead to his days as a starter being over. And remember, still have to face two of the NFL’s top receivers twice – Antonio Brown of the Steelers, and A. J. Green of the Bengals.

3. Killer instinct is something the Ravens have lacked.

 That admission was made by coach John Harbaugh after Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Jets.

“Killer instinct is executing when you get ahead, putting people away and making plays, taking advantage of the fact that they’re down,” Harbaugh said. “Whatever killer instinct translates to, we certainly don’t have it right now.”

They led 10-0 against the Jets. They led 10-0 against the Giants in Week 6. They led 10-7 at halftime against the Redskins in Week 5, but Baltimore was shutout in the second half.  And the Ravens led the Raiders, 27-21, in the fourth quarter in Week 4, only to lose 28-27 after the touchdown catch by Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

Yet the Ravens (3-4) lost all four games. Even when they get leads, they don’t usually play well enough to keep them.

4. The schedule gets tougher.

The Ravens have two games against the arch rival Steelers, who lead the division. They have two games against the Bengals, who had beaten the Ravens five straight times. They have road games against the Patriots (6-1) and Cowboys (5-1). The Ravens also face the surprising Eagles (4-2), which is the Ravens’ final home game in Week 15.

Even if the Ravens play better after the bye, better competition could prevent them from having better results.

The Ravens are 26-29 since winning Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens believe in reloading, not rebuilding. But they only have nine games left to avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.


Quick Links

Morning tip: What could 9-10 man rotation for Wizards look like?

Morning tip: What could 9-10 man rotation for Wizards look like?

With the roster down to the league-mandated maximum of 15 for the Wizards, the next step by coach Scott Brooks is to pare down his rotation with the regular-season opener Thursday at the Atlanta Hawks. 

“I like a nine-guy rotation," Brooks said after the preseason finale.

"Occasionally, 10 guys. The 10th guy doesn’t play as many minutes.”


According to what Brooks has more or less hinted already, the starting five remains as expected: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. But how he slots the rest of the players, taking into account matchups, health and foul trouble, will vary during an 82-game season. 

The most tenuous spot appears to be behind Wall. While Trey Burke received more preseason minutes than Tomas Satoransky, the 6-7 Euro eventually could jump ahead of him if he's not careful. Satoransky's shot needs work but his passing, off-the-ball movement and defense look superior.

Since recovering from a thumb injury, Marcus Thornton registered time behind Beal.

Kelly Oubre battled Porter for the starting job and is the logical backup at small forward. Andrew Nicholson has secured his spot behind Morris, but because of an injury to Ian Mahinmi (knee) he's also spending time behind Gortat. Jason Smith can play power forward and center, too. 

That's 11 players, 1-2 more than Brooks would like for his rotation. The educated guess here is it'll be Burke or Satoransky to fall by the wayside with Thornton being that 10th player who gets the spot minutes. There's no rule against playing three forwards, for instance, with a point guard and a center. 

When Mahinmi returns to top form, Smith's minutes would seem the logical ones to get cut unless he develops a three-point shot to increase his value as a spread option.