Félix Hernández pitches last game for Mariners

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Most likely, anyway. Félix Hernández becomes a free agent after the season and, given how greatly his skills have diminished over the past several years, it’s almost 100% certain that he won’t pitch for the Mariners again. But that’s a concern for another day. Last night was the time to celebrate King Félix and the 15 mostly wonderful seasons he gave to the Mariners and their fans.

Those seasons included the Cy Young Award in 2010, two second-place Cy Young finishes and six top-ten finishes. They included six All-Star team selections which, amusingly, did not include the season in which he won that Cy Young Award. They included a perfect game, tossed against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field on August 15, 2012. It was at the conclusion of that perfect game that Hernández struck what would become the most iconic photo taken of him, as seen above.

Overall, Hernández won 169 games for the Mariners, losing 136. His ERA of 3.42 puts him in a virtual tie for the all-time team lead with Randy Johnson, though due to the three runs he gave up last night, Johnson has him barely beat if you go out to the thousandths place (Johnson is 3.41723, Hernández is 3.41910). The only negative thing about his tenure in Seattle: the Mariners could never surround him with the talent to make the postseason. The Mariners never once won even 90 games during his 15 seasons and only finished higher than third place on two occasions. Given that they had a future Hall of Famer in Ichiro Suzuki and a great like Hernández playing together for most of those years, it’s hard to tell the story of King Félix of Seattle without casting a condemning glance at the men who put those Mariners teams together.

Last night the King pitched one of his longer and grittier recent outings. His skills are not what they once were but he made it to the sixth inning for only the second time in September. At that point manager Scott Servais took him out to the ovation of the crowd. When he did so, Servais said “You will always be the king in this town.” A misty-eyed Hernández then waved to the crowd and made his slow walk back to the home dugout in Seattle for likely the final time.

 

It’s unclear what the future holds for Hernández. He just finished his third straight season with a below league average ERA+ and 2019 was particularly ghastly for him on the mound. While he’s still only 33, he came up for good at 19 and was a full-time starter at 20, so there are a lot of miles on that elbow, that shoulder, and those legs. Smart money would not have him returning to his old form or anything particularly close to it in the future. Smart money may even be laid on the idea that he’s, frankly, done as a pitcher. We’ll have the offseason to see how that plays out and whether a club takes a chance on him with a minor league or incentive-laden deal to come to spring training next February.

But if that doesn’t pan out — if we have just witnessed the final game of Félix Hernández — we have seen a great career from one of the greatest pitchers of his era.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.