Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dureza mental, Senor Rey

My apologies if the title of this post isn't idiomatically correct, as I had to use Babelfish to figure it out, but to plainly state what's becoming more and more obvious: Felix Hernandez lacks mental toughness.

Again, I realize I'm not finding the solution to Zeno's Paradox by saying that (a subtle nod to my father there). His arm is golden, his stuff electrifying. Yet after today's six inning, six earned run outing in an 8-0 loss, he now stands at 6-6 on the season. Sounds like a creepy-yet-winning poker hand, not the stats of a major league staff - especially a team that's just two games out of first in their division. His peripherals are, in many respects, worse than Miguel Batista's, who is at best a #3 and at worst a spot starter/long reliever on another club.

Today's game readily illustrated the highs and lows of Felix Hernandez. He threw four innings of two-hit baseball, matching Roy Halladay pitch for pitch as the M's and Jays were in a scoreless duel. In the fifth, he walked Greg Zaun. Royce Clayton bunted back to the mound, but Jose Lopez failed to cover first base, resulting in runners on first and second. After Reed Johnson sacrificed the runners over and Lyle Overbay was intentionally walked, Alex Rios came to the plate. Hernandez worked the count to 1-2 and then delivered a 95 mph fastball seemingly on the black for strike three. The only problem was that Chad Fairchild didn't see it that way and called the pitch a ball. Visibly frustrated, Hernandez stalked around the mound, drawing a visit from Kenji Johjima. After the visit, Rios drove the very next pitch through the left side for a two-run single. After Fairchild ejected McLaren for arguing the previous pitch, Troy Glaus launched the very next pitch out of the yard for a three-run homer.

After four scoreless innings, three key pitches result in a 5-0 deficit.

It's not just the M's that noticed his meltdown: "We really got a sense that Hernandez was staring to get frustrated and some pitches started coming up in the zone,'' Zaun said. ''Those are the times you have to take advantage, when you have the other team's ace out there and he's lost his composure for whatever reason and you're smelling a big inning.''

Felix is still young and has some of the best stuff in the big leagues. But when Miguel Batista is out-performing you, something is clearly amiss. If the Mariners hope to have any chance to overtake the Angels this year, Hernandez is going to have to toughen up. The best players in sports wrest the spotlight and shine. The spotlight, so far, causes our best pitcher to melt like a popsicle on a hot summer's day.


Post a Comment

<< Home