SEATTLE -- For a time, Felix Hernandez looked like Friday might be another one of those perfect nights. For the Mariners, a 2-0 shutout victory over the Twins worked just fine, but Seattle's ace admitted he thought he might be headed for something more until Trevor Plouffe's two-out single in the fifth.
"I felt terrible in the bullpen, but when I started the game, I was throwing everything in the strike zone and my fastball was really good and that makes everything better," Hernandez said. "I knew I had it. I had the stuff to throw a perfect game, but it didn't happen."
Hernandez knows what it takes to throw a perfecto, as he did in 2012 against the Rays. He also knows how hard it is to throw even a complete game, given that manager Lloyd McClendon never let him go the distance last season and it had been since Aug. 27, 2012 that he'd tossed either a complete game or shutout.
"Finally, huh?" Hernandez said with a grin. "Lloyd left me in. So thanks to Lloyd."
The skipper didn't debate that one on this night, however. Not with Hernandez breezing through eight innings on 86 pitches and finishing the night at a nifty 96.
"I never talked to him once tonight," McClendon said.
Not even when a gimpy quad muscle had Hernandez limping off the mound after leaping to field high choppers up the middle in both the second and seventh innings.
"His numbers say he was OK," said McClendon.
So did Hernandez, though he was wearing a large bag of ice on his right leg afterward.
"I'm fine," said the King. "I'm getting better. I'll be fine. … I don't know why I jumped."
Hernandez was more than fine on the mound, allowing just five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts as he improved to 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA in four starts.
"He was pounding the zone," said McClendon. "The sinker was exploding. In and out. I thought this was the best breaking ball he's had all season. The changeup was phenomenal. Just a great job of commanding the zone, commanding the tempo, keeping guys off balance just enough to make all his stuff work."
What did the Twins see?
"When someone has all their pitches as plus pitches, and they can throw every pitch in every count wherever they want, it's a battle," center fielder Jordan Schafer said after his 0-for-3 night. "He's going to make you look bad, but if he makes you look bad one at-bat, you go and battle the next at-bat. Thank God every guy you face isn't like that."
Hernandez now has six straight starts of at least eight innings with less than two runs allowed against the Twins. The last Major League pitcher to do that against one team was Javier Vazquez against the Padres from 2001-05.