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The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012

“I don’t have any words to explain this…I’ve been working so hard to throw one and today is for you guys.” Felix Hernandez 

Felix Hernandez is beloved by the fans of the mostly hapless Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have fallen on hard times since the days when Randy Johnson led them to the World Series.

Hernandez pitched the third perfect game of the 2012 Season, a record number of perfect games in a season. He joins Giant’s All-Star Matt Cain and Philip Humber of the White Sox. The record had been two perfect games set in 2010, a record which would have been merely tied had umpire Jim Joyce made a bad call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game on June 2nd 2010.

This is also the sixth no-hitter of the season approaching the record of seven recorded in 1990.  If there is such a thing as the year of the pitcher, or a pitching era we are now in it. The era of steroid enhanced hitting is definitely over.

In today’s game against a Tampa Bay Rays team that had won 8 of their last 10 games before facing King Felix. However the Rays are no strangers to being victimized by perfect pitchers. This is the third time in the past four years that the hard hitting Rays have been shut down, the previous times against Mark Buerhle of the Tigers on July 23rd 2009 and Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics on May 9th 2010.

Today Hernandez threw 113 pitches, 77 for strikes, striking out 12 batters and striking out the side twice. It was a magnificent achievement against a solid team. Hernandez was dominant and in control of the game throughout.

I had the pleasure of watching Hernandez pitch in April 2005 when he was with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.  I sat behind home plate as is my custom and was amazed as I watched the then 19 year old phenom dominate.  It was quite a show and I knew that the things that I had read about him were absolutely correct.

The now 26 year old three time All-Star and 2010 Cy Young Award winner has pitched his heart out for his team and the fans of the Mariners. He is revered by them, known as “the King’s Court” at Safeco Field they love him, especially because of his loyalty to the team in signing a contract with the Mariners in 2010 when he could have gone anywhere for a lot more money.

He is a special pitcher and one cannot be happier to see a pitcher like him win a game like this. He was perfect today. Hopefully he will be again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Blown Call by Umpire Jim Joyce ends Armando Galarraga’s Perfect Game: It is time for the “Eye in the Sky”

Armando Galarraga pitching for Toledo at Harbor Park against the Tides

On one of the most glaring bad calls that I can remember Umpire Jim Joyce ended the perfect game attempt of Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga at what appeared to be the 27th out at first base. As the good people at ESPN switched the coverage from the Reds and Cardinals to the game between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians I watched in anticipation of what should have been the third perfect game of the 2010 season, a feat that has never happened in the history of Major League Baseball.

See the play here: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8616789

With two outs in the top of the 9th and having a 3-0 lead Jason Donald hit a 0-2 slider to Tigers First Baseman Miguel Cabrera who tossed to Galarraga as he covered first. As Galarraga touched the base well ahead of Donald Joyce called the runner safe causing an almost audible collective gasp from those present and those watching on television like me.  Tigers Manager Jim Leyland immediately argued the call to no avail and an incredulous Galarraga was left to complete a one hitter.

Now perfect games get broken up all the time, usually to a hit, error or walk which allows the 28th batter to come to the plate regardless of what inning it occurs. Everyone in baseball is disappointed when a perfect game is broken up in the 9th inning, but usually because it occurs in the context of normal baseball plays it does not have the impact that this call had.

Had the call been correct Galarraga would have joined Dallas Braden of the Athletics and Roy Halliday to throw a perfect game this season, a season that is turning out to be the year of the return of the pitcher.  Galarraga who just weeks ago was pitching for AAA Toledo should have had the perfect game.  I am sure that this will renew calls for the expanded use of replay but however much this appeals my overwhelming desire to see justice done for Galarraga the ideas that I have heard don’t seem to work. My idea during last year’s horrible umpiring of the playoffs was to have an umpire in the stadium with replay in front of him and if something was an obvious blown call have the immediate opportunity to review or reverse the call and notify the umpiring crew of his decision. This would have been an opportune time for such a mechanism.  Of course some would argue against this as I would have even up until last year.

Jim Joyce is a 22 year veteran of the Major League Baseball umpire corps. He is well regarded. He has given good service to the game and umpired in the playoffs and the World Series but he will now be remembered more for this than all the rest of his career.  However with calls like this, together with the calls made in the 2009 playoff season and the rash of questionable ejections issued on what seems like an almost nightly basis by umpires for things that shouldn’t warrant an ejection I am scratching my head in bewilderment as to what to do to see better umpired games.

The fact is now that some umpires are becoming either through poor calls or confrontations with players and manager a distraction to the game. They are becoming the center of attention and certainly have no understanding of what umpiring legend Bill Klemm said “The best umpired game is the game in which the fans cannot recall the umpires who worked it.” Fans around the country will remember Jim Joyce as the umpire that blew the call that robbed a pitcher, a team and baseball fans around the country of a perfect game.

Joyce apologized saying “I just cost that kid a perfect game…it was the biggest call in my career.” but Joyce according to his post game statement was sure that Donald was safe and that it was not close until he saw the replay, it was a demonstration that sometimes even outstanding umpires get it wrong and that it was an honest mistake as terrible as it was.

Now to be fair to Joyce he did apologize and he meant it of that I am sure. He seems to have more class than some of the umpires that have made bad calls and not taken the hit after the game by admitting that they were wrong and also those that have seemed to be looking to be in the spotlight by throwing out players and managers for the most ludicrous reasons.  I know that Joyce made a mistake and he knows it and from what I see from Jim Leyland and Armando Galarraga’s statements after the game to they know that Joyce knows and is sorry for the call. Galarraga said afterward:

“I mean, a lot of respect because he [Joyce] feels so bad. He really feels bad, he probably feels more bad than me… everybody’s human… I understand, and I give the guy a lot of credit for saying, hey I really need to talk to you, to say I’m sorry. And that’s not happen really, the umpire apologize.”

All the people involved in the incident, Galarraga, Leyland and Joyce handed the situation with grace and dignity. There was no acrimony at the end of the game which is one of the things that makes baseball such a great game.

It can’t be taken back now but had there been a “eye in the sky” umpire as I suggest the call would have been reversed, everyone would have forgotten the bad call and Galarraga would have his perfect game. It would have protected Joyce and preserved the integrity of the game. I feel bad for both Galarraga and Joyce; they are victims of a system that has refused to adapt a very simple remedy to prevent such occurrences.  It is time to use an umpire to be an “eye in the sky” to get these things right. It could be done with little interruption to the game and without the absurd spectacle of the NFL’s replay system. The institution of this would help maintain the integrity of the game and it should be voted on an approved by MLB at the earliest opportunity.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Hit Parade Continues: Big Hits Power Team over Mud Hens 12-7

Josh Bell smashes a three run homer in the 1st inning

And after a drought the hits came and with them the runs and with them the wins.  The Norfolk Tides appear to have snapped out of their hitting funk and like a like a battleship are now plowing through the waves and blasting whatever appears on their radar.  In the past two games, actually the past 16 innings the Norfolk Tides have scored 24 runs on 25 hits.

Justin Turner slams a 3 run double

After a bad slump where it seemed nothing went right offensively the Tides have managed to put hits together and get the all important big hits to break the backs of the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the Toledo Mud Hens in back to back 12 run offensive displays that featured 6 home runs.

Scott Moore safe sliding into home after Justin Turner’s  3 RBI double

After taking their first day off since the season began the Tides following the thrashing that they gave the Yankees the team came back and on what was an initially a warm and humid night pounded the Mud Hens with another ferocious offensive display.  The Tides wasted no time in putting runs on the board.  Following a ground out by Robert Andino grounded out to short and the avalanche began and the Tides began to light up the Hens like a Kenny Rogers Roaster on a rotisserie.  Joey Gathright who changed his number from 10 to 7 in the classic baseball superstition of doing anything to break a slump bunted for a single.  Corey Patterson singled to left to move Gathright to second and up came Josh Bell who is rapidly becoming a major hitting threat in the IL south.   Bell who had three home runs in Charlotte and has continued making key hits during this home stand hammered the second pitch by Toledo starter Armando Galarraga over the right field wall to give the Tides a three run 1st inning lead.

Chris George threw 5 strong innings but got a no decsion

With the early lead Tides starter Chris George went to work setting the Mud Hens down in order in the 1st and 2nd innings and allowing a single in the 3rd before working a pick off play to cut down the runner attempting to steal 2nd.

The Tides struck again with another crooked score in the 3rd inning.  With one out Joey Gathright singled on an infield hit to second.  Corey Patterson struck out swinging and the Galarraga gave up walks to Josh Bell and Scott Moore.  This brought Justin Turner to the plate and Turner doubled on a deep fly ball to center field which drove in all three Tides base runners.  Chris George went back on the mound and after getting the first two Mud Hens runners off base with a double play gave up two runs on two hits.  In the bottom of the 4th Michael Aubrey took a one ball one strike pitch from Galarraga and pounded it for a lead off home run.  George was tapped for 3 runs in the top of the 5th with two the result of an error by right fielder Michael Aubrey which occurred on a routine fly with two outs.

Michael Aubrey slams a solo shot in the 4th inning

Toledo sent Robby Weinhardt to the mound in relief of Galarraga in the 5th and the Tides sent Armando Gabino to relieve Chris George in the 6th. Both Weinhardt and Gabino pitched scoreless innings until Weinhardt came out in the 7th and Gabino in the 8th.  Fien pitched a score 7th and was relieved in the bottom of the 8th by Jason Waddell.

The Tides sent the left hander Pedro Viola in to relieve Gabino in the top of the 8th.  Viola walked the left handed batter Jeff Larish and was pulled by Manager Gary Allenson for the big right hander Kam Mickolio.  Mickolio has struggled this year especially after his return from Baltimore.  Jeff Frazier doubled off of Mickolio and then the big man walked Casper Wells to load the bases with no outs.  Clete Thomas grounded into a force play to score Jeff Larish.  Thomas then stole second and advanced to third on a single by Robinzon Diaz which scored Frazier.  Mickolio was able to retire the next two batters end the inning but not before the damage had been done and the game was tied 7-7.

The Tides did not take this lying down exploding for 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  With Jason Waddell now on the mound Corey Paterson singled to start the inning.  Josh Bell flied out to right but Patterson took second.  Scott Moore doubled to bring Patterson home and then Waddell walked Justin Turner and Blake Davis replaced Scott Moore as a pinch runner at second.  Brandon Snyder walked to load the bases.  With one out Michael Aubrey hit a sacrifice fly on which Davis scored, Justin Turner advanced to third and Brandon Snyder took second on a throwing error by center fielder Caspar Wells.  Adam Donachie walked to load the bases yet again.  Robert Andino then split the right center gap and doubled to score both Turner and Snyder.  Finally Joey Gathright grounded out to end the inning.

Justin Turner and Brandon Snyder already across and Adam Donachie coming home on Robert Andino’s 3 RBI double in the bottom of the 8th

Jim Miller came in with a five run lead in a non-save situation.  He allowed two base hits but surrendered no runs and the Tides were able to celebrate with another win in which they scored 12 runs.  Kam Mickolio got a blown save but the win while Chris George got the no-decision on a game that save for two out error in the top of the 5th the blown save by Mickolio that he should have won.  Jason Waddell got the loss for Toledo.

Jim Miller closes the deal Tides win 12-7

The teams will meet again tonight at Harbor Park where Toledo’s Enrique Gonzalez will match up against Troy Patton of the Tides.  As for other news and notes Koji Uehara ended his rehab and was promoted to Baltimore and Alberto Castillo optioned back to Norfolk.  The Orioles defeated the Twins in their first appearance at Target Field by a score of 2-0 with Brad Bergeson pitching 6 scoreless innings for his second win of the season. Tonight’s Orioles and Twins game has been postponed due to rain and will be made up in a double header on Saturday.

Peace and see you at the ball park.

Padre Steve+

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