John Jaso knows all about Felix Hernandez. He’s had the best seat in the house — right behind home plate — for many of his most dominating performances, including King Felix’s perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012. But as good as that game was, Jaso said Hernandez might have been even better against the A’s on Saturday, particularly over the first seven innings.
Jaso said he and Hernandez gave each other a head nod before the former’s first at-bat, but afterward, the pitcher showed him no mercy. The two converged at first base when the pitcher covered first base on a slow roller.
“I ran down the line and he was like, `What are you doing over here?’ ” Jaso recounted. “I just told him he was nasty today.”
Hernandez, who was my pick to win the Cy Young this year, doesn’t get as much recognition as Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, but when he’s on, he can be as overwhelming as any pitcher in baseball. Early in the game, he had thrown 27 pitches, 24 for strikes. I honestly thought in the third inning we might be seeing a no-hitter on this day. So did manager Bob Melvin, who managed Hernandez at a very young age.
“For seven innings, that may the best we’ve ever seen him,” Melvin said.
And Oakland has seen him very good a lot. Hernandez won’t turn 28 for a few days, but he’s already made 30 career starts against the A’s and he’s 16-7 lifetime against them with a 2.58 ERA. He has a 10-game unbeaten streak pitching at the Coliseum, too. He’s just a great pitcher, fun to watch, and it’s somewhat remarkable that he hasn’t had nearly as much success against the Rangers (12-20) or Angels (9-13) as Oakland, but he looks primed to dominate everybody he faces this year.
The A’s, meanwhile, can’t seem to get the bats going just yet, and the fact that they have had three postponements this week (with no batting practice on any of those days) may play into that a bit. Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie appear to be the only guys at this point hitting the ball with any authority, but you know it’s only a matter of time for Josh Donaldson, and Josh Reddick, after a great spring, just seems to be pressing a bit too much. It might actually help them to get out of the Coliseum for a week (the A’s head to Minnesota Monday) to rediscover their strokes. It appears Yoenis Cespedes is close, too. He hammered a ball off Hernandez that was very nearly a game-tying home run to left but it was blown foul by just a few feet. “Next time,” said Cespedes wistfully.
Hey, as long as you’re not swinging it, it might as well be against one of the best pitchers in the game today. Hernandez was that in spades on Saturday, and even at that, the A’s had a chance in the ninth. They’re going to be fine, as long as the grounds crew remembers to put the tarp on the infield when it looks like it could rain.
Back tomorrow, when I cover my fourth A’s game of the season to regular beat writer John Hickey’s two. It’s been a weird first week, no question.