Felix Hernandez didn’t make any sort of run at Johnny Vander Meer’s unbreakable record of back-to-back no-hitters Tuesday — he gave up a single to Jason Kipnis, the very first batter he faced — but he did limit the Indians to one run in 7 2/3 innings in a 4-1 victory.
Meanwhile, the other Hernandez on the mound for Cleveland — Roberto, the former Fausto Carmona — did make things interesting for a bit, pitching 4 2/3 hitless innings before Eric Thames homered. He ended up allowing four runs on three hits in six innings.
Felix Hernandez, meanwhile, scattered seven hits, but every last one was a single. He walked one and struck out five in improving to 12-5 on the season. Since Jered Weaver got shelled last time out, King Felix currently stands third in the AL with a 2.54 ERA.
Hernandez has gone 13 straight starts without taking a loss. AL Cy Young voters figure to take into account his lack of run support when it’s time to pick a winner come early October. One more shutout could really help his case; if he gets his fifth, he’d be the first AL starter to reach that total since David Wells in 1998.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.