Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Return of the King

Ten years from now, a couple hundred thousand may claim to have watched King Felix make his brilliant Safeco debut, mowing down Twins hitters like Mike Gastineau does a pepperoni pizza. The reality is about 35,000 lively fans were in the house, including four of us who post in this blog.

For me, the two hours before game time were highly nerve wracking. The traffic was normal-bad but, due to an accident, both bridges heading across the water were packed. Compounding the traffic issue was my gas gauge, which started out at a seemingly-acceptable quarter tank when I got in the car but plummeted quickly and was firmly on "E" while I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the bridge. And then, almost as if on cue, my phone started low-battery beeping and my charger wasn't in the car. I ran my fingers through my scalp in a sweaty panic, sure that I was going to run out of gas on the bridge, with no phone to call for help. Thankfully, I made it across and was able to fill up, not only with gas but with beer and 14-year old scotch from FX McCrory's. Empowered by booze and a sausage dog, we made it to our seats just in time to see the M's take the field for the start of the game.

I was impressed that Felix threw nothing but fastballs to start the game and yet the Twins were still overmatched. Gil Meche can reach 95 on the radar gun, but his fastball clearly isn't in the same league. Perhaps that extra 2-3 miles makes all the difference, though from what I've observed and read, Felix's ball moves wickedly. As the game progressed, Felix unveiled his slider, curve ball and change-up and pretty much made the Twinkies look silly -- as if a team with that colloquial nickname needs that.

The first inning took 21 minutes to complete. The rest of the game took 1:42. The M's were their usual anemic selves offensively, but a Reed double and a Betancourt triple, on this night, were enough. Everyday Eddie finished up with his 28th save of the year, preserving the entertaining 1-0 Mariners victory.

It's been said many times before, but I'll say it again: Hernandez has an easy delivery that belies the power in his arm. His arm speed seems to be the same, regardless of the pitch. And for a guy who walked about four per nine innings in the minors, he's started his big league career out with laser-beam control.

It's been over ten years since we've had a legitimate phenom on our hands in Seattle. Felix is the real deal. For M's fans suffering through a second dismal season in a row, we've earned something to look forward to every fifth day ... that is, besides a Mike Morse error.

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