On Monday, our man Tom Ley wrote about Felix Hernandez, the big-game pitcher who's been deprived of big games because he plays in Seattle. "No one calls him clutch," he wrote, "because his teams have been too wretched to give him even a chance at being clutch. But clutch isn't always about rising to the occasion. Clutch can be about creating the occasion in the first place, out of nothing."
This afternoon, in front of a mostly empty Safeco, with two punchless teams and outfield shadows that tried to tell us that this wasn't the time of day when we're supposed to play baseball, we saw Felix gin up one hell of an occasion. He struck out 12 Rays, using his usual sharp fastball, a speedy buckling curve, and some kind of 91-mile-per-hour changeup that no one could hit, en route to retiring all 27 of them. He threw the year's third perfect game, which happened to be the second in Seattle. But this one, a 1-0 victory, pleased Mariners fans more than the last one did.
What is there to say about the Rays offense? This is only the 23rd perfect game in major league history. Three of those 23 have come against the Rays since 2009. Today's gang of Rays was masterfully punchless. Evan Longoria had the best batting average of anyone in the lineup at .297, and Matt Joyce followed at .269. Things descended tidily until we reached Carlos Pena's .191, the worst figure of any starter. We trust King Felix's dominating performance reminded them of bygone summers.
But even though the Rays are 63-54 and in position for a playoff spot, while the Mariners are 55-64 and miles out of one, Seattle is the story today. That's all Felix's doing.