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Felix impresses, outdueled by Paddack in finale

Hernandez goes seven, gives up one run on three hits with eight K's
@oapostrophesd
April 24, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- King Felix polished up the crown nicely Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park. Unfortunately for him, there was a Prince Paddack eager to claim a throne for himself. Mariners stalwart Felix Hernandez had his best outing of 2019, keeping the Padres off-balance with a mix of 89-mph fastballs

SAN DIEGO -- King Felix polished up the crown nicely Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park. Unfortunately for him, there was a Prince Paddack eager to claim a throne for himself.

Mariners stalwart Felix Hernandez had his best outing of 2019, keeping the Padres off-balance with a mix of 89-mph fastballs that darted around, curves that dropped into the strike zone, sliders that dove away from the bats of right-handed hitters and changeups that produced weak contact.

Seven innings of three-hit baseball did not put Hernandez in the win column, however. Padres rookie starter Chris Paddack was more than equal to the task with seven innings of one-hit ball, and the Friars prevailed 1-0 in the pitchers' duel.

“I’m getting better every outing,” Hernandez said after a season-best eight strikeouts.

Hernandez put away hitters with each of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider, changeup. He was throwing all for strikes; 57 of his 75 pitches were strikes. It was a testament to his mastery of his repertoire that catcher Omar Narvaez pointed to the slider as the key pitch of the outing and manager Scott Servais chose the curve.

“We showed everything off,” Narvaez said. “He was aggressive. He was spotting everything, and he was able to throw them for strikes.”

Seattle relievers entered Wednesday ranked 24th in the Majors with a 4.96 ERA. It’s one area of concern in the team’s 16-11 start. Thus far, the Mariners have been able to cover the bullpen by relying greatly on their starters. No starting staff has thrown more innings than Seattle’s 153.

With Yusei Kikuchi due for regular abbreviated starts, the first of which is coming Friday, it’s encouraging for the staff that the 33-year-old Hernandez not only was able to pitch deeper into a game than he has all season, but he was highly effective in doing so.

“He mixed the ball well,” second baseman Dee Gordon said. “Each start’s getting better and better. He’s learning he doesn’t have to throw 97, 98. It’s definitely refreshing to see that he’s happy. He feels good. He feels strong. He’s comfortable in his abilities.”

What wasn’t great to see for the Mariners was Paddack’s deadly changeup. With Paddack throwing that pitch and his 94-mph fastball where he wanted to, he struck out nine and retired the last 19 batters he saw. And, yes, he knew he had to be good to beat Hernandez.

“Growing up as a young kid, you know he has the name ‘The King’ for a reason,” Paddack said. “Going into this game, I told myself, ‘This is a new generation. Let me show the world: Why can’t I beat him?’ That was pretty cool.”

Hernandez may not be ready to cede the throne, but he knows a worthy challenger when he sees one.

“He threw pretty well,” Hernandez said of Paddack. “Aggressive. He’s got good stuff.”

The only thing that separated Hernandez and Paddack was a home run by Ian Kinsler in the second inning. With two outs, Kinsler pulled a first-pitch fastball 347 feet over the fence in the left-field corner. It was Kinsler’s 106th career plate appearance vs. Hernandez and his fifth homer off him. It also was Kinsler’s 250th career homer.

Only Manny Machado, with a ground single to right in the first inning, was also able to solve Hernandez’s pitches. Rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. doubled in the third inning, but that came on a bloop that fell between shortstop, left field and center field.

Seattle’s one real crack at Paddack came in the first inning. Mitch Haniger drew a leadoff walk, Domingo Santana singled through the left side of the infield with one out and Tim Beckham was hit by a fastball with two outs to load the bases. Paddack went to his trusty changeup, and Gordon went down swinging to end the threat.

Paddack never allowed another baserunner to best Hernandez in their first matchup.

“Felix did an awesome job. I feel bad we couldn’t extend the game or get him the win today,” Servais said. “We’ll take plenty of outings like that. It was great to see.”

Shaun O'Neill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @oapostrophesd.