There wasn’t even a near-miss in this one. Felix Hernandez dominated the Rays from top to bottom on Wednesday, striking out 12 in a perfect game to beat Tampa Bay 1-0. It was his first career no-hitter and the first perfect game in Mariners history.
As for the Rays, this is becoming old hat for them. Although they’re only been around since 1998, they’re now the first franchise in major league history to be on the losing side in three perfect games. They also had perfect games thrown against them by Mark Buehrle in 2009 and by Dallas Braden in 2010.
Hernandez simply cruised today, even after Rays manager Joe Maddon took the field in the middle of a Matt Joyce at-bat in the seventh to lodge complaints about Rob Drake’s strike zone. And, make no mistake, it was a big strike zone. However, even a small one might not have prevented Hernandez from making history. Besides some fantastic fastball command, he had probably the best changeup I’ve ever seen from him today. He threw B.J. Upton several in a row in the seventh, and Upton still never had a chance.
Hernandez pitched himself right into the think of the AL Cy Young race with today’s performance. Rebounding from a rough patch in May and early June, he’s now won his last seven decisions and is 11-5 with a 2.60 ERA for the season. He’s fifth in the AL in ERA, tied for second in strikeouts (174) and first in innings (180). He now has four shutouts. With one more, he’d be the first AL pitcher to get to five since David Wells in 1998.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.