Felix Hernandez has the name of his son tattooed on his left wrist and the name of his daughter on his right. After kissing the top of the Yankees' order goodbye in the ninth inning to clinch a 1-0 shutout for the Mariners on Saturday, he celebrated by kissing each of the tattoos and thrusting his arms toward a cloudless blue sky.
The sky over Yankee Stadium always seems to be cloudless for Hernandez, who is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five career starts at the new stadium. He has allowed 24 hits in 392/3 innings in the five games, holding the Yankees to a .176 batting average and striking out 40.
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This outing might have been his most masterful yet as he gave up only two hits and two walks in his third shutout of the season. He pitched to only three batters more than the minimum.
"I told him that was probably the most impressive start I've ever seen as a manager," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "This ballpark, that lineup, the swings and misses, the missed hits with so many good hitters over there . . . It doesn't get any better than that."
Hernandez (10-5, 2.63) outpitched Hiroki Kuroda in a matchup of righthanders who hadn't lost since June. Hernandez became the first pitcher to win a 1-0 complete game in the Bronx since Cleveland's Greg Swindell did it in September 1988. The last pitcher to win 1-0 in the Bronx while allowing two or fewer hits was Baltimore's Jim Palmer, who pitched a two-hitter on June 1, 1978.
The Yankees never got close to scoring against Hernandez, who did not allow a runner to reach second after Robinson Cano doubled to left-center with two outs in the first inning. The only other hit off Hernandez was Ichiro Suzuki's leadoff single off first baseman Mike Carp's glove in the third.
"I was throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of the count, and that's the key against those guys," Hernandez said, adding that he would not go as far as his manager did and call it one of the best games of his career.
Hernandez, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, got off to a shaky start to the season but hasn't lost since June 12. In his past 10 starts for his last-place team, he is 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
He seems to particularly like pitching in the Bronx. That 1.13 ERA at the new stadium is the lowest of any pitcher with at least two starts there.
"I don't know why. I'm just looking to throw a good game here," Hernandez said. "This is a baseball city and the fans here love baseball."
When a reporter asked if he would ever consider pitching in New York on a more permanent basis, Hernandez shrugged off the notion. He said he is not much of a get-out-on-the-town guy and spends most of his time here in his hotel room.
Said Hernandez: "I'm happy where I am."