King Felix silences invaders to his court

King Felix silences invaders to his court

SEATTLE -- The King's Court was the smallest Felix Hernandez had ever seen it. A sea of Toronto blue pushed it into just one small yellow triangle crammed behind the left-field foul pole. The King didn't like that.

"That was unbelievable," Hernandez said. "But you know what, it's still my house."

So when Hernandez left the Safeco Field mound after shutting down the Blue Jays' offense for seven innings, that's what he yelled: This is my house.

Hernandez's performance set the tone in the Mariners' 2-1 win in 12 innings over Toronto on Wednesday. He scattered two hits against a team that had scored 10 runs on 14 knocks the night before. Hernandez's dominant outing helped the Mariners evade a three-game sweep and improve to two games out of the second American League Wild Card spot, as Baltimore lost to Boston on Wednesday night.

"Felix really stepped up his game," manager Scott Servais said. "Got the breaking ball going, was ahead in the count for the most part and really threw the ball really well."

Toronto fans had come down in charter bus-loads to watch the Blue Jays play a three-game series in Seattle. Hernandez watched them take over the Mariners' ballpark for two days. The atmosphere felt more like an away game for the Mariners, as the Blue Jays won the first two contests to the raucous delight of their fans. Hernandez had had enough of it.

"I threw over to first, and they were booing," Hernandez said. "Then I was like, 'What's going on here? We're in Seattle, we're not in Toronto.'"

Mariners fans hold up "K" cards for Felix Hernandez.AP

The pressure was on heading into Wednesday's game, and not just because of the Blue Jays' fans.

The Mariners had clawed their way back into the postseason race with an eight-game winning streak, only to drop four of the first five games in a homestand against the Astros and Blue Jays. Seattle had sunk to three games out of the second AL Wild Card spot, with Toronto four up in the first slot. Another loss to the Blue Jays would be a heavy hit to the Mariners' postseason chances with only 10 games to go.

"Backs against the wall," Servais said. "You kind of have to have this game if you want to hang in there."

Hernandez faced the Blue Jays under similar circumstances on Sept. 23, 2014, and lost. In 4 2/3 innings, he surrendered eight runs (four earned) on six hits, and the Mariners fell, 10-2, with five games left in the regular season. The defeat put Seattle three out of the second AL Wild Card spot. The ballclub would go on to win four of its next five games, barely missing the postseason.

But Hernandez said he wasn't thinking about that on the mound on Wednesday.

The King sent the message that it was his house by the way he pitched. He made it known that he wasn't afraid to use both sides of the plate, once in a while sending Blue Jays batters ducking or jumping away from a pitch inside. Sometimes that led to walks -- he issued three free passes -- but more often than not he got the out.

"The first two games of the series, we did not do a good job of getting them off the ball away," Servais said. "And Felix and [catcher Jesus] Sucre knew we needed to do that today."

After the Mariners pulled out the win in extra innings, a postseason run yet again seemed possible.

"I want to be there so bad," Hernandez said, "and we've still got a chance."

Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.