Daisuke Matsuzaka received all the hype from ESPN entering tonight’s game. After all, it was his Fenway debut. He tossed a solid seven innings, allowing three runs to the Mariners. He retired Ichiro every time, even striking him out once. Matsuzaka also threw one high and tight to Ichiro, and it wasn’t an accident. Nor was his HBP of Jose Guillen, in my opinion. Kenji Johjima, who’s had plenty of ABs against Matsuzaka, smacked a couple of doubles for the Mariners.
But the big story was 21 year-old Felix Hernandez, who carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning. I was hoping he’d quiet Boston down, and it was incredible to watch him carve up their lineup in "radiant HD." Before the game, I couldn’t resist the +162 Bodog was giving for a bet on Felix. Something tells me they won’t set the line there again for him, no matter who he’s facing. (Some of you may remember my now-defunct website DailyBaseballPicks.com. Turns out I had $39 sitting around in my Bodog account from that little experiment).
ESPN’s announcers at least avoided the term "no-hitter" for most of the game, although they just said "screw it" around the 7th inning and said it a few times. Not cool, guys. Still, I must say I enjoy the pitching insight added by Orel Hershiser. ESPN’s gun was blatantly at least 3 mph fast – Joel Pineiro wasn’t throwing 94 – but Felix was obviously dealing. The guy’s sliders and changeups are on par with most pitchers’ fastballs. Barely anything left the infield or the ground against him, though Jose Lopez lended some excellent glovework at second base.
After his one-hitter on the big stage tonight, we can safely say Felix Hernandez has arrived. You have to wonder – if Felix pitches to his 90th percentile PECOTA – a 2.74 ERA – and does it for 215 innings, can the Mariners ride that to the playoffs? In the King, they have one of the most valuable commodities in the game.