In return to All-Star mound, Felix helps AL blank NL
'Special night' for Mariners ace, with parents in attendance at Citi Field
NEW YORK -- Felix Hernandez had waited four years to throw another pitch in an All-Star Game. On Tuesday night, the Mariners ace made the most of the opportunity, tossing a scoreless fourth inning en route to the American League's 3-0 victory at the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field.
The long delay between All-Star appearances had nothing to do with the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner's output on the mound, but instead with his unfavorable pitching schedule. Despite being elected to the All-Star Game in each of the last two seasons, Hernandez was unable to pitch in either as a result of starting for the Mariners on the Sunday before the break in both '11 and '12.
On Tuesday, with his parents in attendance, he was the third pitcher used by AL manager Jim Leyland. He entered the game with a 1-0 lead after Tigers righty Max Scherzer and White Sox ace Chris Sale had combined to throw three perfect innings.
"It was pretty special," Hernandez said. "My mom and my dad were in the stands watching me, so it was a good thing I had a good inning."
Though Hernandez conceded the first NL hit, he pitched around the one-out Carlos Beltran single to preserve the shutout. After forcing the Reds' Brandon Phillips to ground out to start his night, Hernandez conceded the hit through the left side of the infield to Beltran, who was then replaced by pinch-runner Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen promptly swiped second base and advanced to third on a Joey Votto groundout, but Hernandez induced a groundout from the Mets' David Wright to escape the inning unscathed.
"I was just trying to make a good pitch," Hernandez said of facing Wright. "I didn't want that guy to score. It was a 1-0 game at the time, so I was just trying to make a good pitch and get him out."
Hernandez's wish to again pitch in the Midsummer Classic became a reality as a result of another impressive first half that saw the righty go 10-4 with a 2.53 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 138 2/3 innings.
"It was nice to be back out there in an All-Star Game," Hernandez said. "Especially here in New York with this crowd. It was a special night."
While Hernandez was able to pitch in another All-Star Game, Mariners teammate Hisashi Iwakuma suffered the same fate as Herandez each of the last two seasons. Iwakuma pitched on Sunday, tossing 96 pitches over seven innings in a victory over the Angels, leaving him unavailable Tuesday.
The rules regarding All-Star pitchers were altered last summer to allow those who started on the Sunday before the break to throw on a limited basis in the Midsummer Classic, but managers typically decide against it.
Pitching in just his second year in the Majors after seven seasons -- and three All-Star appearances -- in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, Iwakuma entered the break 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 20 first-half starts. The righty has tallied 113 strikeouts compared to just 19 walks over 131 1/3 innings.