The buzz around Mariners ace Felix Hernandez isnt just that hes 7-1 with a 2.57 ERA or that hes won his last four starts after overmatching the Angels in Wednesdays 3-1 victory. Its that hes showing increased octane on his fastball. Hes now touching 95 mph.
I still got it, he said. Havent (always) used it. But still got it. It helps me a lot. It helps my change-up, too, and my breaking balls.
Some of that extra oomph is due to an off-season workout regiment designed to strengthen his lower torso.
Hes been able to go the first couple of innings of ballgames just using his fastball, catcher Mike Zunino said Then using the off-speed a little bit later. Thats getting him deeper into ballgames. His command has been really good, and his stuff has just been electric.
Hernandez came within one out Wednesday of his 10 career shutout and his 24th complete game before departing after a pair of two-out hits in the ninth produced the Angels only run. And he was irked at failing to get that out.
I definitely wanted that, he admitted. One out away from a complete game, but thats fine.
Except his demeanor told you it wasnt.
That might be the biggest difference between Hernandez and the Mariners other All-Star starting pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma. While Iwakuma applies a workmanlike, do-my-job approach and with great success, he is 17-7 with a 2.62 ERA in 38 starts since the start of the 2013 season Hernandez burns to be great.
And now hes armed with renewed life on his fastball.
Result: He ranks second in the league in wins and strikeouts and first in starts and innings. Prefer new-wave stats? Hernandez ranks first in fielding independent pitching and situational wins.
He was phenomenal, manager Lloyd McClendon said. Right from the start, I thought he had great command of all of his pitches. His fastball was really exceptional tonight. Thats two times in a row. You can see hes starting to get stronger. Very impressive.