1) Perfection isn’t easy
For one sunny Seattle afternoon on Aug. 15, 2012, the King was untouchable. Perfect games are rare. There have been only 23 in Major League history. And the most-recent one still belongs to Hernandez, who retired 27 straight Rays in a 1-0 victory with a 113-pitch gem that included 12 strikeouts.
At game’s end -- after striking out eight of the final 12 batters faced -- Hernandez kissed the tattoos of his children on his wrist and thrust his arms to the sky while raising his right leg in a pose that quickly became referred to as “Felixing,” before being swarmed by catcher John Jaso and the rest of his teammates.
That day clearly stands as the highlight of Hernandez’s career and he can thank designated hitter Jesus Montero for delivering the game-winning hit in the third inning of what otherwise would have become a scoreless extra-inning game.
2) Who’s house is it?
Hernandez never hid his emotions on the mound, which is one of many reasons fans loved watching him perform. And the best example of his fiery personality came out on Sept. 21, 2016, when he roared “This is my house!” as he stalked off the field after throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing just two hits to Toronto in a game where fans from Canada had flooded to Seattle and overwhelmed the King’s Court, turning then-Safeco Field into one big Blue Jays cheering section.
Hernandez loved pitching in Seattle and took great pleasure in being supported by the King’s Court, so he took it personally when the Blue Jays fans invaded.
As happened so often in his career, the seven-inning gem didn’t lead to a personal victory for Hernandez as Toronto tied the game with a run in the ninth after he’d departed. But the Mariners rallied to win, 2-1, in 12 innings and Hernandez helped defend his home court.
3) Supreme Court was in session
To celebrate Hernandez’s perfect game, the Mariners turned the entire Safeco Field crowd into a “Supreme Court” for his next start on Aug. 21, 2012. And in classic Felix fashion, he seized the moment by throwing 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 victory over the Indians in front of 39,204 fans.
Instead of just the usual King’s Court corner rooting section, the first 34,000 fans were given yellow T-shirts with a “King of Perfection” slogan across the front as well as the traditional “K’ cards to wave. The result was a sea of yellow that roared from Hernandez’s entrance until his departure, and he rode the wave to a dominating victory.
4) A slammin’ good time
Hernandez won’t be remembered for his bat. The man has hit .080 in his career in Interleague games, going 4-for-50. But one of those four hits -- a grand slam off Mets standout Johan Santana -- will never be forgotten. Particularly by Hernandez, who relishes that moment with great pride.
It was June 23, 2008, when he launched his opposite-field shot, becoming the first American League pitcher to hit a grand slam in 37 years. With the designated hitter rule limiting the opportunities, no AL pitcher has done it since, making Hernandez the only AL pitcher now in 48 seasons.
“My approach? Just swing. I closed my eyes," Hernandez told reporters after that 5-2 win. "I was happy and I was thinking that's all I need -- four runs."
Which was certainly one way to eliminate any lack of run support issues.
5) Dice-K who?
The big national buzz early in 2007 surrounded the arrival of Japanese standout Daisuke Matsuzaka with the Red Sox. And after signing Dice-K to a $103 million contract, the right-hander made his Fenway Park debut on April 13 to much-ado and a national ESPN2 audience.
The problem was, for the Red Sox anyway, Hernandez wound up starting that game for Seattle after his previous scheduled start in Cleveland was snowed out. Coming off a 12-14 season and 4.52 ERA in his first full season in the Majors, the King wasn’t a thing yet on the national stage.
But that all changed that night as Hernandez twirled a one-hit shutout, outdueling Dice-K in a 3-0 victory, with the lone hit coming on a single by J.D. Drew up the middle under the glove of second baseman Jose Lopez leading off the eighth.
At the time, Hernandez was a relatively unknown 21-year-old. But after he rolled the Dice, all that began to change.