March 15, 2017, saw the USA start its second round play for the World Baseball Classic against Venezuela. The premier matchup of the night? Felix Hernandez vs. Drew Smyly. It was the World Baseball Classic: Mariners edition. This game was good on all accounts. It was a true pitching duel.
World Baseball Classic: Mariners Edition
Through five innings, Drew Smyly put on a rehash of his no-hitter against the Mariners, striking out eight in 4.2 innings. He allowed a single unearned run on his own fielding error on a throw to first base. Robinson Chirinos, the Texas Rangers backup catcher, laid down a beautiful bunt to Smyly’s right. Drew fielded it, and threw off his back leg. This caused the ball to sail and go over the head of 6’4″ Eric Hosmer, which is quite an impressive feat. This led to runners on second and third, and a long RBI flyout by Ender Inciarte. Settling down after that, Smyly’s final six outs were by the strikeout.
Jim Leyland had to have had pain in his steps as he went out to get Smyly, considering they were only going to let him go 60 pitches. His final line came out to be 4.2 innings pitched, eight strikeouts, no walks, and no earned runs. He used his entire repertoire to tie up a potent Venezuela lineup full of All-Stars. If the Mariners can get half of this from Smyly in hitter-friendly Safeco Field this year, then the playoffs might not be such a long shot.
On the other side, there was Felix Hernandez, the King. He matched Drew Smyly pitch for pitch. It looked like he found his mid-season form with his changeup, painting the corners and keeping some of the better batters in the majors off balance. Felix stumbled a bit in the third inning. He was able to get Andrew McCutchen to fly out, but then gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases with only one out. Adam Jones reached for a low curveball, hitting it to second base for an easy double play. Venezuela was able to stretch Felix a little farther, closer to the 80 pitch restriction for Round 2 play in the World Baseball Classic.
Felix’s night was done after he shut down the USA side in the bottom of the fifth inning. His final line of the night was five innings pitched, three strikeouts, three hits, and no walks. A great showing for such an early time in March. Something that Mariners fans can surely be happy to see.
Wednesday brought a preview of two of the Mariners starters. Felix Hernandez, the ace and Drew Smyly, who is slated to hold down the back end of the rotation. Watching these two men go against opposing teams full of All-Stars and MLB-level talent is a refreshing sight to see. If this is what happens for an entire 162 game season, playoffs here they come.