Felix Hernandez stands alone. With a second-inning strikeout of Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the Mariners’ starter became the only pitcher to strike out at least 200 batters in each of the last six seasons. Tigers starter Justin Verlander entered the season with five in a row of his own, but as he currently stands at 118 strikeouts and hasn’t pitched in two weeks, Hernandez will be by himself when the season is over.
Hernandez was rolling until he allowed a sixth-inning, three-run home run to Yoenis Cespedes. It marks the first time he’s given up three-plus runs in a start since May 12. He left with two outs in the sixth, relieved by Brandon Maurer.
Hernandez came into tonight’s start in Boston with a league-leading 1.99 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. While arguments can be made for some other starters, Hernandez appears to be the current favorite to take home the American League Cy Young award when the season ends. If he does, he’ll have two on his mantle.
Chris Sale of the White Sox is closest to Hernandez in ERA at 2.12, but has pitched 50 fewer innings and it will be close to 60 when tonight’s games are over. Corey Kluber is next in ERA at 2.46, but that’s about a half-run per nine innings ahead of Hernandez. Garrett Richards has the next-best ERA, but he just suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.
Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:
I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.
In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.
“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”
Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.
For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.