10 moments that defined King Félix's career

October 12th, 2023

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Félix Hernández will have one of the more intriguing Hall of Fame cases when he reaches the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot in 2025. The case for The King is simple: He dominated for a decade with the Mariners as one of the very best pitchers in the game. He also is arguably the best pitcher to ever come out of Venezuela, leading all natives of that country in starts (418), innings (2,729 2/3), shutouts (11), strikeouts (2,524) and wins (169).

But the case against is far more complicated, as his fall from the top was sweeping and swift.

Aside from never pitching in the postseason, Hernández experienced some of the game’s highest of highs. Below is a breakdown of his 10 best moments.

1) Perfection
Aug. 15, 2012

For one sun-soaked Seattle afternoon in August 2012, Hernández was untouchable. Hernández carved his way through the Rays’ lineup by retiring each of their 27 batters, with 12 strikeouts over a 113-pitch masterpiece, which marked just the 23rd in MLB history -- and stood as the most recent for more than 10 years. At game’s end, after striking out eight of his final 12 batters, Hernández 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 “Félixing.” It remains the most iconic moment in Hernández’s career and one of the top highlights in Mariners history.

2) The elusive Cy Young

Hernández’s 2010 wasn’t just one for the ages; it also helped alter the perception of a pitcher’s value beyond wins and losses. In years leading up to that one, Félix’s 13 wins would’ve been viewed as a significant detriment, compounded by the lack of his team’s success, as the Mariners lost 101 games. But BBWAA voters recognized that Hernández received less run support than any pitcher in the American League while also pacing those pitchers in WAR (7.2), ERA (2.27), starts (34) and innings (249 2/3), and his 232 strikeouts were one off from leading the league. The King went on to receive 21 of the 28 first-place votes.

3) Loyalty above all
Feb. 12, 2013

More than anything, Mariners fans loved Hernández for his loyalty, and that was never on more prominent display than when he finalized a seven-year, $175 million contract ahead of the 2013 season. When he navigated the bowels of T-Mobile Park to the news conference, he was met by a crowd of Mariners employees cheering and wearing yellow King’s Court T-shirts while shouting his name. “I’m doing this because I love Seattle,” Hernández said at the time. “This has been my life. This has been my family.”

4) 'This is my house'
Sept. 21, 2016

Hernández always wore his emotions on his sleeve, and the most fiery such moment came in a 2016 game against the Blue Jays, in which he fired seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits in front of a crowd featuring many fans who’d flooded to Seattle from Canada and overwhelmed the King’s Court. Hernández loved pitching in Seattle and took great pleasure in being supported by the Court, so he took it personally when the Blue Jays' fans invaded.

5) Supreme Court in session
Aug. 21, 2012

To celebrate Hernández’s perfect game, the Mariners turned the entire T-Mobile Park crowd into a “Supreme Court” for his next start. And in classic Félix fashion, he seized the moment by throwing 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 victory over Cleveland 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 Hernández’s entrance until his departure, and he rode the wave to a dominating victory.

6) Leaving it all on the table
Sept. 28, 2014

In a must-win situation on the final day of the 2014 season, Hernández pitched his heart out, firing 5 1/3 shutout innings with just one hit allowed as he attempted to march the Mariners to the postseason. The best-case scenario would’ve been a tiebreaker game against Oakland for the second AL Wild Card, but the A’s wound up spoiling those ambitions by winning in Arlington earlier that afternoon. Hernández took the mound for the start of the sixth inning knowing that he again wouldn’t be pitching in October, faced one batter then was removed to a roaring ovation.

7) A slammin’ good time
June 23, 2008

Hernández certainly won’t be remembered for his bat, having gone 4-for-50 in Interleague Play. But one of those four hits will always be recalled fondly, especially for Félix, who continued to relish that moment with great pride. On June 23, 2008, Hernández took Johan Santana deep with the bases loaded for an opposite-field slam at Shea Stadium, becoming the first AL pitcher to hit a grand slam in 37 years. “My approach? Just swing. I closed my eyes," Hernández said at the time. "I was happy and I was thinking that's all I need -- four runs." It was certainly one way to combat his lack of run support issues that plagued him early in his career.

8) Dominating vs. Daisuke
April 11, 2007

One of the most prominent storylines early in 2007 was the arrival of Japanese standout Daisuke Matsuzaka with the Red Sox. And after signing the high-profile righty to a $103 million contract, Matsuzaka made his Fenway Park debut on April 11 to much fanfare and a national audience. But Hernández, who pitched opposite Dice-K after his start was pushed back due to snow, stole the show, outdueling Boston’s new prize with a one-hit shutout while carrying a no-hitter into the eight inning. At the time, Hernández was a relatively unknown 21-year-old. But after he rolled the Dice, all that began to change.

9) The King has left the building
Sept. 26, 2019

After all of his injuries and struggles during his final season in Seattle, Felix sent his fabled fans home on a feel-good high note following an emotional sendoff in his last outing with the Mariners. Hernández battled shoulder issues for much of the 2019 season, but he recovered for the final month and plugged a much-needed void in Seattle’s rotation. As it became clear that Hernández wouldn’t be back in '20, the nostalgia grew for the fan favorite, and it culminated with his final start, when he pitched 5 1/3 innings and exited with tears flowing down his face.

10) The youngest since when?
Aug. 4, 2005

When Hernández debuted, he was the youngest pitcher to appear in the Majors in more than 20 years, at 19 years, 118 days. That day, in Detroit, Félix wowed over five innings with just three hits and two runs allowed, foreshadowing to the world of what was to come.