Seattle – In the afterglow of eight innings of one-hit, shutout baseball a night earlier, pitching coach Carl Willis was asked Sunday morning whether he ever took Felix Hernandez for granted.
“Oh, my – I don’t,” he said, laughing. “But what he did last night? We’d lost seven in a row, and he went out and controlled his side of the game.
“Every fifth day you know he’ll give you the chance to win, but that was a special game.”
What the Mariners fan base has come to expect?
“At times I think fans want that every start, and that’s difficult to do at this level no matter how good you are,” Willis said. “To allow one hit in a game – against anyone – is amazing. These hitters are the best of the best.
“We depend on him so much, and we have the responsibility to take care of him the best we can. After eight innings last night, with a 7-0 lead, I asked him if he wanted to go out and finish it.”
Felix said no, he was fine with what he’d already done.
“That shows a lot of maturity, to save an inning there, save pitches,” Willis said.
“His teammates appreciate how much he gives them.”
Willis said that whatever concerns fans had over Felix’s loss in velocity this season – when his average fastball dropped to 92 from 93 in 2011 – should now be laid to rest.
“What makes him so special is the ability to throw any pitch in any count, which means a hitter can’t sit on anything,” Willis said. “In Tampa last week, they were going after his first pitch early in the game.
“So Felix started throwing first-pitch change-ups, first-pitch curves or cutters. He had hitters confused.”
Is there any possible drawback to having Hernandez pitch?
“Sometimes I think we get caught up in watching him so much that we don’t take care of the things he has no control over,” Willis said.
Uh. Like scoring.
Kyle Seager leads the team with 17 RBI and is third in the American League with 10 two-out RBI. … Over his past four games, catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero has a batting average of .400. … Dustin Ackley’s fourth-inning triple was his first of the season in his 29th game. Last season, Ackley led the team with seven triples in 90 games. … The Mariners have homered 16 times in their past 13 games. … Here’s an intriguing stat: According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 212 starts Hernandez has made for Seattle are the most by any active pitcher for his current team. The last time a pitcher under 30 held that distinction was 1948 – and it was Bob Feller. … Tonight, Seattle will face former Mariners pitcher Doug Fister for the first time. Fister was traded to the Tigers last July for pitchers Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin, outfielder Casper Wells and minor league third baseman Francisco Rodriguez.
Seattle plays host to Detroit in a 7:10 p.m. game today that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Fister (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Blake Beavan (1-3, 4.45).larry.larue @thenewstribune.com Twitter: @LarryLaRue