King Felix pitches perfect game against the Rays

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6:02 p.m EDT update: Hernandez is perfect, getting a called third strike on Sean Rodriguez to end the ninth. It’s the first perfect game in Mariners history, and the Rays became the first team ever to be on the losing end of three perfect games.

Hernandez ended up striking out five of the final six hitters he faced to end the day with 12 strikeouts. It’s his first no-hitter and perfect game and eighth career shutout.

5:48 p.m. EDT update: The eighth inning figured to be a bigger test for Hernandez than the ninth, but King Felix struck out Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena to keep the perfect game going. He’s at 10 strikeouts and 98 pitches through eight.

The Rays are due to send up Jose Lobaton, Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez in the ninth. Those three are hitting a respective .228, .245 and .207 this season. The Rays, however, have both Jeff Keppinger and Desmond Jennings available off the bench and figure to use them. Keppinger is hitting .321, while Jennings is at .255.

5:25 p.m. EDT update: Hernandez is perfect through seven, though Rays manager Joe Maddon tried to disrupt his rhythm by getting tossed and taking part in a lengthy discussion with home plate umpire Rob Drake with two outs in the inning.

Maddon had a case: the called strike to Matt Joyce to start his at-bat was well off the plate. But while Hernandez has been getting calls, Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson hasn’t fared badly there himself. That’s why it’s a 1-0 game with no walks and only a couple of three-ball counts through 6 1/2 innings.

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Felix Hernandez is dealing at Safeco Field today. He’s gone 18 up, 18 down against the Rays, and he’s at just 69 pitches with seven strikeouts in a 1-0 game.

Whether it results in a no-hitter or a perfect game is anyone’s guess, but he’s certainly showing that kind of form against a lineup that includes just one guy batting over .275 in Evan Longoria. It’s MLB.tv’s free game of the day, so most everyone can go check it out if they wish.

For what it’s worth, Hernandez has seven career shutouts, three of them coming this year. He’s pitched one one-hitter, that coming against the Red Sox way back on April 11, 2007. He also allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings against the Twins earlier this season.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.