With a rare day off, I was supposed to get up at 10am, check for cheap tickets to the Mariners afternoon game, and make a day of it in Seattle. It didn’t bother me too much that my carefully calculated plan went amiss; at 11am, it was just late enough that I’d have a hard time getting ready, sitting through an hour-long commute to the park, and arriving in time for the first pitch at 12:40.
There will be plenty of Felix days, I thought.
Several minutes later, I shuffled over to the computer to catch up with Twitter. No matter how early I make myself get up (7:30-8am on any given day), I always seem to miss the first stream of baseball news from the East Coast. Today, however, the news of the day waited until I was awake to break the Internet.
“MLB suspends Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera 50-games for testing positive for testosterone,” Twitter told me. I blinked. I read it again. Surely that was a typo. Perhaps they meant Miguel Cabrera, or Asdrubal Cabrera, or Orlando Cabrera.
I couldn’t read Twitter fast enough. Melky is stupid. Melky is brave for confessing. Melky is contemptible for confessing after covering this up. The Giants’ season is over. Long live the Dodgers.
In big moments—World Series wins, perfect games, devastating injuries, and heartbreaking trades—I usually try to take a step back and evaluate my own opinions and emotions before exposing them online. This morning, I sat back and watched the flood of tweets pull my heart in different directions. It was too much to handle in that moment. It still is.
Before Melky could break too many hearts, it was time for afternoon baseball. As per usual, MLB had scheduled the Giants and Mariners games mere minutes apart, but today I couldn’t bring myself to watch Tim Lincecum try to salvage a series against the Nationals. Instead, I turned on my TV, where Felix Hernandez had just breezed through the first inning on seven pitches.
Cool, I thought. A routine start for the King. I regretted not being in my usual spot at the Safe, but figured that as brilliant as Felix was, this would be an easy win, a strong start, nothing extraordinary.
By the 3rd inning, the tweets lauding his pitch count and prowess caught my attention. 24 pitches through 9 batters. An RBI single by Jesus Montero. Okay, this was getting cooler, and with Melky still on my mind, I was growing more upset with myself for passing up a chance to catch the game live.
Two innings later, it was apparent that Felix had something special. He’s made incredible starts this year: a two-hitter in Yankee Stadium, a 12-strikeout complete game against Texas, a flawless 8 innings spoiled by Brandon League’s blown save. This was different.
Instead of sitting on the couch and soaking it all in, I became impatient and anxious. This season, I’ve had the opportunity to attend 30 games, including Philip Humber’s perfect game, Jason Vargas’s complete game, and Eric Thames’s walk-off win. The idea of missing a perfecto from Felix Hernandez was unthinkable.
By the 6th inning, I had jumped in my car, raced to the nearest gas station, and begun the long trek to Safeco Field. The radio blasted Rick Rizzs’ play-by-play as I clutched the steering wheel at every red light. I’m never going to make it, I thought. Felix had a perfect game in his hands, and I had a feeling that the Mariners were done scoring for the afternoon.
Maybe, if you were at the game, the later innings started to drag on. While Felix was fueled by adrenaline, you had your heart in your throat with every pitch and every at-bat. Maybe time seemed to slow down a bit.
For me, on the other hand, it felt like every batter had sworn an oath refusing to take a pitch. Rizzs stalled with anecdotes of Brendan Ryan and his sanitary hose, and I hoped he was providing the commentary because of some delay in the game. I prayed to the baseball gods for an extra-long bottom of the 7th, then the 8th. Please score, I begged the Mariners. Please foul off a few pitches.
And, for a while, they obliged. I made it to I-90, to the ramp for Edgar Martinez Drive, to a standstill in front of Safeco Field. Bottom of the 8th. Dustin Ackley fouled off a pitch. Michael Saunders fouled off two. Jesus Montero worked the count to 3-2 and struck out on a foul tip.
On that pitch, I ditched my car on a dirt road and started running. If you saw me in the moments before I made it to Safeco, I apologize. I full out sprinted down two blocks, an emotional, frantic, please-oh-please-just-wait-to-end-this-game mess. Desmond Jennings strode to the plate. I bypassed the ticket window and bolted for the gates, where I was waved in without a ticket.
I had done it. One pitch into the top of the 9th, perfection only three outs away, and I had arrived just in time for the coronation of King Felix. A wide belt of fans circled the perimeter of the Main Level seating, and with a heart racing from the game and too little exercise, I couldn’t find a seat or even a good view.
Jennings struck out. One down. Keppinger grounded out to short. Two down. Sean Rodriguez watched two breaking balls, swung at a slider, and saw the final two strikes slide over the plate. Felix was perfect.
In that moment, I cried. I cheered for Felix, for the fans, for perfect timing on a perfect day for a perfect game. I was—am—a wreck after the Mariners’ first perfecto in franchise history. Walking around the park after the game, I was in a daze. No raucous cheers filled the walkways; instead, a quiet euphoria was reflected on the faces of Mariners fans. We were all left to process the magnitude of Felix’s performance.
Thinking about it now, I wonder why I didn’t heed the warnings of multiple fans on Twitter. During my commute, I glanced at messages that told me I was cheating for trying to attend the tail end of a no-hitter, that I would jinx the team with my arrival, should I make it in time. While I try to avoid superstitious behavior in a superstition-ridden game, part of me entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, the Rays would manage to break up the perfecto before I could get to the park.
Of course, I know the answer now. Despite my late arrival, despite the presence of Larry Stone (no longer a jinx after a 27-year dry spell), Felix was going to get his perfect game.
There is no neat and tidy way to wrap up this day. This morning, my heart was heavy over Melky Cabrera’s suspension and the repercussions the Giants now have to face in a loaded NL West race. This afternoon, my spirits were lifted by a gem from King Felix. So although I can’t say I want off this rollercoaster, I am very, very grateful for an off day tomorrow.