Felix is 19 years old.

Top of the Sixth
As my friend Joe Sheehan pointed out in his column at Baseball Prospectus, the Mariners did a very smart thing with Hernandez. His first three starts were a day game in Detroit (in a game that wasn't even televised in either market), in which he gave up two runs in five innings; a home start against the soft-hitting Twins, which he won 1-0 with eight shutout innings; and now a start at home against the even softer-hitting Royals.

I managed to catch some of his first start on a feed at work, but the only camera must have been sitting in the upper deck at Comerica Park and it looked Hernandez was 15 feet from the batter. His second start wasn't televised on the Extra Innings package, so I missed that one.

He's still throwing 95-97 in the sixth. He walks McEwing -- his first walk of the game -- but there's no other damage.

Top of the Seventh
When I was 15, I had a poster of Dwight Gooden in my bedroom. It said, "Dr. K says no to drugs." I kid you not.

Dr. K was 19 in his rookie season of 1984. He struck out 10 or more hitters 15 times. He finished with a flourish, going at least eight innings in his final eight starts and twice fanning 16 in September. He was 17-9 that year with a 2.60 ERA and a league-leading 276 K's. The next year, he was even better. I bought a Mets cap, even though I lived 3,000 miles from Shea Stadium and had never seen the Mets play.

Dwight Gooden had a good career, though he fell short of Hall of Fame stature. He was really undone by shoulder injuries, not the drugs, although popular history seems to view his career as a failure to reach the unlimited potential he flashed as a teenager.

Somewhere there is a 15-year-old kid buying a Mariners hat because he sees the future of Felix Hernandez.

The Royals finally scratch across a run, as Sweeney lines a single into right-center (really, along with Berroa's hit, the only hard-hit balls all game), Brown reaches on an infield single, and Sweeney eventually scores on two groundouts.

Top of the Eighth
Wouldn't you believe it ... my Extra Innings package blanks out. I assumed Felix would have been removed anyway, with Seattle leading 8-1, and his pitch count at 89. But I flip over to "Baseball Tonight" and see that he's still pitching in the eighth. Why? There is no point to having him pitch another unnecessary inning with a seven-run lead in a game between two last-place clubs in the middle of August. Take him out.

Luckily, Hernandez goes 1-2-3, throwing just 10 pitches, and striking out McEwing looking, for his 11th K of the game. Mariners fans line up the "KKKKKKKKKKKing Felix" placards in the outfield.

He comes out after eight innings and 99 pitches. He was still humming 96-mph heat in the eighth. His final line: 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts. He has a 0.86 ERA through his first three major league starts, with 21 K's and just 11 hits allowed in 21 innings.

After the game, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said, "I am trying not to go over the deep-end bragging about this guy. I would love to sit here and tell you all the flowery, beautiful things that I am feeling, but common sense tells me I should not go down that road."

Continued...


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KING FELIX