In more than a century of baseball dating to Chief Bender in 1907, only two pitchers have recorded as many as 13 consecutive starts in which they worked at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. The first, Tom Seaver, constructed his streak between July-September, 1971, and entered the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.84 percent of the vote. The second, Felix Hernandez, gets a chance to break his tie with Seaver Wednesday night in Cleveland.
King Felix should already own the record – by a significant margin – and can blame his weak-hitting teammates (and the front office for acquiring them) for the fact that he does not.
Felix’s streak of 13 started May 18 when he limited Minnesota to two earned runs over eight frames in a 6-2 victory at Target Field. Counting that win, Hernandez has won seven times during his streak, including four in a row from May 18-June 2, when he defeated New York 10-2 at Yankee Stadium.
But Hernandez also has one loss and five no-decisions during his streak. He sustained a 1-0 setback to Texas June 13 (fourth 1-0 loss of career, a franchise record), and took no decisions at Tampa Bay (June 8), at San Diego (June 18), at Chicago (July 5), at Anaheim (July 19) and again last Friday night at Safeco Field against Baltimore (he couldn’t get a win June 8 even with 15 strikeouts and one walk).
In the six of 13 starts that Hernandez didn’t win, he allowed a combined five earned runs and posted an ERA of 1.05 while striking out 58 and walking seven. But Mariners hitters couldn’t help him. In those games, they scored six times, suffered two shutouts, hit .259 with runners in scoring position (14-for-54) and left 50 on base.
This isn’t a 2014 phenomenon. Since he arrived in the majors in August of 2005, Hernandez has worked 58 games — that’s nearly two years’ worth of starts — in which he pitched seven-plus innings, allowed two or fewer earned runs and came away with a loss (he’s 0-14 in such games) or a no decision. No other pitcher in franchise history has come close to experiencing that level of frustration, as the following shows:
In fact, since his debut Hernandez is the major league leader in such vexations, his 58 topping Matt Cain’s 51, Cole Hammels’ 46, Cliff Lee’s 40, Dan Haren’s 38, James Shields’ 34 and the 33 each by Johan Santana and Bronson Arroyo.
King Felix is not yet close to the major league record for frustrating starts. Greg Maddux, inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend, pitched 107 such games during his career. Don Sutton, another Hall of Famer, threw 104 and Nolan Ryan 99. On the other hand, Maddux made 740 career starts during his 23 seasons. Hernandez has made 291 in 10 years, so he is well on his way to breaking Maddux’s record.
One day down the road, Hernandez might be known as the “King” of losses and no decisions in games with seven-plus innings and two or fewer earned runs allowed.
ADD, FELIX: In his no-decision against Baltimore Friday, Hernandez permitted one earned run over seven innings, lowering his season ERA to 1.99 after 22 starts. That enabled him to become the first pitcher in Mariners history with an ERA below 2.00 at any point after the 20th start of a season. The lowest:
|2014||July 25||Felix Hernandez||22||1.99||Has five games with 10+ K’s|
|1997||Sept. 13||Randy Johnson||27||2.25||Finished at 2.28, had 20-4 record|
|2010||Sept. 28||Felix Hernandez||34||2.27||Led AL in ERA, won Cy Young|
|2013||Aug. 1||Felix Hernandez||23||2.30||Finished 12-10 with 3.04 ERA|
|2012||Aug. 27||Felix Hernandez||27||2.43||Struggled in 2nd half; 3.06 ERA|
|2009||Sept. 14||Felix Hernandez||31||2.45||Won 19 games, had 2.49 ERA|
|1995||Oct. 2||Randy Johnson||30||2.48||Led AL in ERA, won Cy Young|
|2009||July 28||Jarrod Washburn||20||2.64||Traded to Detroit 3 days later|
|2013||Sept. 25||Hisashi Iwakuma||33||2.66||Finished third in AL Cy Young vote|
|2001||Sept. 18||Freddy Garcia||31||2.85||Went 18-6, led AL in ERA at 3.05|
|2002||July 28||Jamie Moyer||23||2.86||“Faded’ in 2nd half, finished 3.32|
Hernandez struck out 10 Orioles in lowering his ERA to 1.99 and has five games this year with 10 or more K’s (he had a career-high seven 10-K games in 2007). In 31 career 10-K games, Hernandez has 17 wins, three losses and 11 no-decisions. That he has three defeats and 11 no-decisions in those contests certainly has taken the “happy” out of a lot of “Happy Felix Days.”