It’s a perfectly wonderful coincidence that Adrián Beltré and Félix Hernández have birthdays just one day apart.
Tuesday is Beltré’s 41st birthday. Wednesday is Hernández’s 34th.
Doesn’t that just seem right for a pair of players whose careers were tied together so closely? The two were teammates in Seattle from 2005-09, and their friendship persisted when Beltré departed for Boston, then spent his last eight seasons as an American League West rival with Texas.
But over that time, the future Hall of Fame third baseman and six-time All-Star pitcher turned their relationship into something far more fun. They were pals. They were fierce but good-natured competitors, through 74 head-to-head plate appearances. And they never, ever stopped giving each other grief.
It was the game’s most entertaining pitcher-hitter rivalry, right up until Beltré retired after 21 successful seasons at the end of 2018.
Sure, these guys were plenty fun on their own, between Beltré’s endless antics -- from his fear of head-touching to on-deck circle dragging -- and Hernández’s breathtaking pitching in front of his King’s Court. But they were at their most fun together, the best baseball comedy duo since Abbott and Costello.
So with Beltré retired, Félix with the Braves and baseball on hold for the time being, let’s take this opportunity to look back at 12 times these two stars’ unique chemistry kept us entertained.
A big misunderstanding (Aug. 25, 2010)
After Beltré left the Mariners to sign with the Red Sox in 2010, the two friends faced each other in a big league game for the first time late that summer at Fenway Park. Of course, it was a friendly competition.
"We had a little bet," Beltré said afterward. "He told me he was going to strike me out three times and I told him I was going to take him deep."
Unfortunately for Beltré, the encounter lasted just one plate appearance, which ended in a called strike three. Later, Beltré was chirping at Hernández, but umpire Dan Bellino -- not in on the joke -- apparently thought the comments were directed at him. Beltré was ejected, and manager Terry Francona followed him. Whoops.
'The game within the game' (May 21, 2012)
By this point, Beltré was on his third post-Mariners season, and his “frenemy” act with Hernández was in full swing. Their first confrontation of 2012 was a good example, as the cameras captured them playfully jawing and gesturing back and forth throughout the night. As the broadcast put it: “They are having a blast … the game within the game here.”
A little help here? (Sept. 5, 2014)
Playing third base, Beltré pursued a foul popup near the Mariners’ dugout, running out of room to make the play. Hernández, not pitching in the game, was in the area. And no, he did not exactly lend a hand.
Directions to the dugout (Sept. 10, 2015)
Beltré gave a Hernández pitch a pretty good ride to the opposite field but didn’t get quite enough to drive it out of Safeco Field. After the warning-track flyout, Beltré’s route off the field took him past the mound, and King Félix was kind enough to make sure his friend didn’t get lost.
Send back that comebacker (Sept. 20, 2015)
Beltré reached out and poked a liner back at the mound. Hernández stuck out his glove and snagged it for the out. But he felt like Beltré should at least get a souvenir out of it.
Stay back (Aug. 31, 2016)
Hernández’s first pitch to Beltré in this game was an offspeed pitch that appeared to get away, backing up inside and nearly hitting the batter. Words were exchanged, and tempers flared (Well, not really).
I love you, man (July 31, 2017)
On July 30, Beltré reached a huge career milestone, notching his 3,000th hit. It just so happened that he was facing Hernández the next day, and when he came to the plate for the first time, his friend took a moment to congratulate him. How many times have a pitcher and batting embraced before an at-bat?
Let’s go for a jog (Sept. 14, 2017)
It’s always nice when buddies have time to do activities together, like go to a movie, go out to eat or jog to first base after a comebacker.
Slow down! (Sept. 20, 2017)
Friends look out for each other, too. And by this time, Beltré was 38 -- elderly by baseball standards. So when he ran out a grounder against Hernández, the completely unbiased pitcher encouraged him to put his health first.
Charge? (April 20, 2018)
In the middle of a third plate appearance full of chirping, Beltré took a Hernández pitch off the hip, the second time his friend had hit him in all those years. What would he do next?
Last laugh goes to Beltré (Aug. 7, 2018)
This was the last time these two would face each other, and it appeared Hernández would be going out on a high note. Entering the game, Beltré was only hitting .224 with two extra-base hits in their matchups, and in the second inning, when Félix fooled him with a curveball, Beltré took what had to be one of the worst swings of his career for the K -- much to the pitcher’s amusement.
But after Beltré also made outs in his next two trips to the plate, he got some sweet revenge. No laughing, this time. Best of all, Hernández would get no retort. This was their final showdown.
Bring it in (Sept. 30, 2018)
Isn’t it amazing how baseball just works out sometimes? Although Beltré had not yet announced his retirement, this would be his final game, and wouldn’t you know, it was back in his old home ballpark in Seattle, with King Félix watching from the dugout. In the second inning, Beltré singled for his 3,166th and final hit, but was doubled off immediately when Joey Gallo ripped a line drive to first. Before he could make it back to his dugout, however, Hernández had to call him over one last time.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.