BY Steve Rudman 07:31AM 04/16/2014

Matchup of the year (so far): Felix Vs. Darvish

Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish meet for the third time — and first since 2012 — Wednesday night in Arlington, TX. Hernandez is looking to improve to 4-0.

Yu Darvish has a 3-3 career record against the Mariners, but is 0-2 when facing Felix Hernandez, which he’ll do Wednesday. / Wiki Commons

At 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA and 0.996 WHIP, Felix Hernandez is off to the best start of his 10-year major league career. Since he bunched his three wins into the season’s first 12 days, Hernandez gets three more starts before the month is done, which means he has a longshot opportunity to enter May 6-0. That would be memorable.

Since 1914, the first year such records are available, only four pitchers, including former Mariner Randy Johnson twice, started the first calendar month 6-0. Aided by two wins over the Mariners in the first 10 days of 1988, Oakland’s Dave Stewart was the first to produce a 6-0 April. Pitching for Arizona, Johnson did it in 2000 and 2002, and Brandon Webb and Jered Weaver followed in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

The difficulty in achieving such a feat is illustrated by the fact that even a 4-0 start is relatively rare, especially in Mariners annals. But that’s the number Hernandez will be aiming for that Wednesday night in Arlington when he faces the Texas Rangers, who will try to end Hernandez’s run by sending out Yu Darvish.

Hernandez and Darvish have contested each other twice, botg in 2012. Felix got the better of both duels, beating Darvish 6-1 May 21 at Safeco Field and 7-0 July 14, also at Safeco Field.

In the May 21 game, Hernandez allowed one earned run in eight innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. The Mariners chased Darvish after four innings largely because of Ichiro, who had a run-scoring triple and a two-run single.

In the July 14 game, Darvish had nothing (seven earned runs and four walks in 6.1 innings), while Hernandez pitched one of the great games of his career, a complete-game, three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and no walks. According to Elias, there were only 35 other games of that statistical sort in the majors since 1900, meaning that what Hernandez did that day was more than six times as rare as a no-hitter.

While Hernandez has gotten the better of Darvish in their meetings, he has generally not fared well against the Rangers, who own a 20-12 record against him. Texas is the only MLB team to defeat Hernandez 20 times. Hernandez is 5-9 with a 4.45 ERA – more than a full run above his 3.18 career mark — in 18 starts in Arlington.

While Hernandez leads the majors with 30 strikeouts, Darvish leads with an 0.00 ERA. Darvish’s year was delayed because of a trip to the disabled list with neck stiffness, but he returned strong. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in two starts spanning 15 innings. He’s walked two and struck out 15.

If Fernandez wins, he will improve to 4-0 for the second time in his career (also 2009) and joins Jamie Moyer as the only pitchers in franchise history to twice start a season 4-0. Only six Mariners have done that. One made it to 5-0, much less 6-0.

Mariner Pitchers With Perfect First Months

Year Pitcher GS W-L ERA Finish
1980 Rick Honeycutt 4 4-0 3.24 Started 6-0 but collapsed to 10-17
1996 Randy Johnson 6 4-0 3.35 5-0, 3.67; had major back surgery
1997 Jeff Fassero 6 4-0 2.85 16-9, 3.61 in AL-high 35 starts
2001 Aaron Sele 6 4-0 2.61 15-5, 3.60 ERA, 2 CGs, 1 SHO
2001 Jamie Moyer 5 4-0 3.86 1st 20-win season (20-6) at age 38
2005 Jamie Moyer 6 4-0 3.53 13-7, 4.28; had 12 no-decisions
2009 Felix Hernandez 5 4-0 2.38 19-5, 2.48; 7-game win streak

GOOSE EGGS: The Mariners did not get a runner past second base in their 5-0 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night and suffered their third shutout loss in six games. This is only the second time in franchise history (1990) that the Mariners have sustained three shutout losses in a season’s first 13 games. The 1978 Mariners were blanked a record six times in April and three other editions (1977, 1993, 2012) were shut out four times.

MOUND WOES: In addition to the shoulder soreness that led to Blake Beavan’s exit after only four innings Tuesday, top prospect Taijuan Walker was scratched from his rehab start in Tacoma when he couldn’t get his shoulder loose. Walker was scheduled to rejoin the Mariners in Miami this weekend.

FURTHER REVIEW: Roenis Elias, who held the Rangers to one run and five hits over 6.2 innings for his first major league win Monday, has 2.16 ERA over his first three starts, third-lowest among the first three starts for any Mariners pitcher over the last decade, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The two lower ERAs belong to Felix Hernandez, who had an 0.86 in his first three starts in 2005, and James Paxton, who posted a 2.12 in his first three last year.

AL WEST: Oakland increased its lead in the division with a 10-9 victory over the Angels Tuesday night. The A’s have won four in a row and eight of nine after weathering a dramatic, two-run shot in the ninth by Mike Trout off Sean Doolittle . . . Dan Straily became the first A’s starter to give up more than three earned runs, yielding seven hits and six runs . . . Angels hitting coach Don Baylor could be back with the club in a limited pregame capacity when LA returns from a lengthy trip later this month. Baylor broke his leg Opening Day and isn’t likely to be in the dugout during games for several weeks.

COMING UP: The Mariners conclude the four-game series in Texas Thursday (first pitch 11:05 a.m.) before moving on to Miami to face the Marlins. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 5.63), pounded for eight runs and 13 hits by the Athletics in his past two starts after a two-run debut against the Angels April 1, will oppose RHP Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 7.88). Ramirez is 0-0, 2.38 in three appearances against Texas while Scheppers has a 1.69 ERA in 11 career relief appearances against Seattle.


YourThoughts

  • Matt712

    Good weather forecast for a pitchers’ duel – not too hot, not too cold, and a bit humid. Not sure about Darvish, but I think Felix is in good enough shape to go all the way.

    The key will be the early innings. I hope the Ms are aggressive. They need to get on the board early. If they fall behind or it’s a stalemate, then we’re finally going to see Cano get a ballgame-full of free passes and Felix will get pulled around the 7th in a 1-0 crapfest.

  • Bayview Herb

    botg???