As 300 million people celebrate the 239th birthday of this nation, Green and Gold-clad faithful inside O.co Coliseum will hope to see fireworks in the form of explosions off the bats of the Oakland Athletics.
It will be a tough ask, though, as the Seattle Mariners will send out staff ace Felix Hernandez.
Though “King Felix” has been among the league’s most dominant starters since his emergence in 2005, in two match-ups against Oakland this season he has allowed a pedestrian five earned runs through 12 innings. Boasting a 10-4 record and a 3.05 ERA, Hernandez is well on his way to his sixth All-Star team selection in 11 seasons.
Before Saturday’s Independence Day matchup, A’s manager Bob Melvin said:
“You would think it’s time for us to get him.”
In 16 starts this season, Hernandez has faced the A’s twice. While his 1-0 record and 3.75 ERA seem only slightly below his expectations, his first outing in Oakland on April 12 lasted just five innings as he allowed three earned runs on eight hits.
In Hernandez’s last start against the A’s, in Seattle, shortstop Marcus Semien (batting ninth Saturday) went 3-for-4 with two solo homers. They were the only runs Hernandez would allow and the Mariners would win 4-3.
Aside from Semien’s two-homer game, the only other Athletic with much career success against the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner is Stephen Vogt. The catcher (who is batting second Saturday) has a career .583 (7-for-12) with a triple and a homer, but just two RBIs.
Vogt’s high average but low run production seems to reinforce Melvin’s pregame comments about Hernandez:
“Record wise, with us, he’s given us a tough time. He gives everybody a tough time, but more so us in particular. … But he’s gotten off the hook somehow too.”
A’s fans may also remember Hernandez’s career struggles with umpire Mike Winters calling balls and strikes. Only 11 umpires that have called four or more Hernandez starts have seen more earned runs allowed per nine innings. Hernandez has allowed 15 earned runs in 31-2/3 innings with Winters on over watch, scuffing to a 4.26 ERA and a 1.547 WHIP.
Melvin had high praise for his AL West adversary:
“He’s one of the great pitchers in, not only the American League, in the game and one of the more respected guys.”
Melvin can look to guys like Billy Butler (7-for-28) and Brett Lawrie (4-for-14) along with Semien and Vogt to try to turn the tides on Seattle’s King.