First of all, as I wrote in my game story tonight, let any doubters about Felix's dominance or his place atop the Mariners rotation be drilled in the ribs with one of his fastballs.
I can't tell you how impressed I was with him. I've seen him look more dominant at times and have statistically better starts, but what he did with the lineup he had behind him was just outstanding.
Look at all the things he had working against him.
&bull The Mariners back-up catcher, Jamie Burke, was forced into starting at first base because of injuries.
&bull Seattle's two top left-handed hitting power threats – Russell Branyan and Ken Griffey Jr. – were on the bench.
&bull The line-up Wakamatsu put on the field had a combined five home runs between the nine players, while going against one of the AL's best in Shields
&bull He tweaked his already achy right ankle in the second inning and could feel it throbbing all game.
&bull And the Rays, despite their 6-10 record, are still the defending American League champs with five hitters at the top of the order that are as good as any in baseball.
A few quotes on Felix ...
From Wak ...
"He showed you what he can truly be," Wakamatsu said.
"To be able to come out and do what he did on a day like today is special," Wakamatsu said. "It was just an outstanding performance by him."
Wakamatsu also praised Felix's growing maturity. He mentioned him shaking off the errors. There was a time this spring where the team booted a few balls behind him and Felix let it get to him a little. Today that didn't happen.
Here's what Jamie Burke had to say about Felix, noting it was quite different watching Felix from first base.
"He's grown and grown as a pitcher," Burke said. "He's got the knowledge of a 30-year-old veteran that's been around. It's great to see him grow."
"When we turned those double plays and he's staring at me and screaming … it's a great feeling," Burke said. "It just pumps you up."
Felix also believes that he's matured and is able to control his emotions.
I asked him about the ankle, and if it hurts when he pitches or afterward, he said: "It hurts all the time." Basically, because he pitches every fifth day, it's not something that's going to heal immediately. I'm sure most of you have sprained an ankle in the past and once you sprain it, it's pretty dang easy to sprain it again. Even the slightest - tweak like today - can make it hurt.
Alright, let's get to Ichiro and his lead-off home run - the only run of the game.
As the notes listed below, it was the 28th of his career.
Ichiro could never recall ever leading off a game with a homer and winning the game 1-0, even his youth baseball days, but as he pointed out, he didn't always bat lead-off. That was something that came in his professional days.
As for the significance in this game, he was philosophical as usual.
"In reality, when it first happens, they're all just important because you don't know what the outcome is," Ichiro said through his translator Ken Baron. "They are all equal at that moment. But looking back on it, it was a special case."
"Even before the game started, I think we could all tell what kind of game it would be," Ichiro said, referencing the pitching match-up of Shields and Hernandez. "You could tell it was probably going to be a one-run game."
One more thought ... David Aardsma was filthy in the eighth inning. That was pretty sweet, just dominating. This is a guy the Mariners got for Fabian Williamson. Good job, Big Z on that one.
Here's a few notes though ....
&bull James Shields recorded his second outing of the season of at least 7.0 innings and one or fewer earned runs…was his first loss while allowing only a single run since Sept. 14, 2007 at Seattle…is now 1-2, 2.10 ERA (7 ER, 30.0 IP) at Safeco Field in four starts.
&bull Pat Burrell worked a season-high 3 walks, his most walks in a game since June 13, 2008 at St. Louis…has walked 4 times in a single game twice in his career (last: 5/6/07 @ SF).
&bull Carl Crawford had his 5th multi-hit game of the season, going 2x4 on the day.
&bull Tampa Bay was shut out for just the 2nd time this season.
&bull The Mariners 1-0 victory was the 2nd of the season, marking the first time to have two 1-0 wins in the same season since 2004 (6/11 vs. MON; 9/15 vs. ANA)…Seattle is now 35-41 all-time in 1-0 games.
&bull Ichiro lead off the game with a home run (2), giving him 28 lead off home runs and tying him with Jimmy Rollins and Davey Lopes for 12th on the all time leadoff home run list.
&bull Marked the 22nd time in Major League history that a leadoff home run has decided a 1-0 game and 2nd in Mariners history (Greg Briley, 6/19/92 at MIN)…thanks to SABR home run guru David Vincent for the research help.
&bull Felix Hernandez tossed 7.0 shutout innings for the 11th time in his career (last: 5/31/08 vs. DET)…he struck out 7 batters; has struck out at least 6 in each of his 4 starts and now leads the American League with 27 strikeouts.
&bull Hernandez has tossed at least 7.0 innings in each of his 6 starts vs. Tampa Bay…Seattle has won 5 of his 6 starts.
&bull Brandon Morrow recorded his 5th save of the season (5-for-5) and is now tied for the American League lead…has not allowed a run in his last 6 appearances while giving up only 2 hits…also has not allowed a run at Safeco Field as a reliever since April 26, 2008 vs. Oakland (1-0 with 7 saves in 21.1 innings pitched spanning 22 appearances at Safeco while striking out 29).
&bull David Aardsma continued his scoreless inning streak by tossing a scoreless 8th. Has not allowed a run this season in 6.2 innings, the longest for a Mariners reliever this season.
&bull The Mariners recorded only 4 base hits and are now 2-2 when recording 4 hits or less this season…from 2006-08, Seattle had been 2-33 when recording 4 hits or less.
&bull Seattle committed season-high 3 errors, most since having 3 errors June 9, 2008 at Toronto…last recorded 4 fielding miscues on May 13, 2008 at Texas.
&bull Today was the fastest game of the year (2:22)…Tuesday's game (2:23) was the previous fastest game.