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Mariners' Felix Hernandez tosses baseball's third perfect game this year

Seattle's 'King Felix' dominated Tampa Bay for nine innings on Wednesday, resulting in the first perfect game of his stellar career and 23rd all time in Major League Baseball history.

By Tim BoothAssociated Press / August 16, 2012

Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is doused by Miguel Olivo after Hernandez threw a perfect baseball game in their 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Aug. 15, in Seattle.

Ted S. Warren/AP

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Seattle

As he rode down in the crowded elevator wearing a wide grin after watching Felix Hernandez twirl baseball history, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik felt like having a little fun.

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He pulled out his cellphone, held it to his ear and listened for a moment.

"No, we're not trading Felix Hernandez," Zduriencik jokingly said into his phone.

Not after Wednesday. Not anytime soon.

Hernandez pitched the Seattle Mariners' first perfect game and the 23rd in baseball history, overpowering the Tampa Bay Rays in a brilliant 1-0 victory Wednesday.

The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner has never hid his desire for pitching perfection. For a franchise on its way to an 11th straight season without a playoff appearance, Hernandez is the one constant keeping fans interested in Mariners baseball.

Hernandez (11-5) rewarded those fans with a 12-strikeout gem on Wednesday afternoon. He baffled the Rays using his sharp curve and blistering fastball to keep the Rays guessing all day.

It finally culminated in the ninth inning when Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings, got pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger to ground out and closed out the perfecto by falling behind Sean Rodriguez 2-0 and then throwing three perfect pitches.

His teammates had spent most of the game leaving Hernandez to himself, but after the right-hander was done pointing at the sky, he was engulfed in celebration.

"It was always in my mind, every game. 'I need to throw a perfect game.' For every pitcher I think it's in their mind," Hernandez said. "Today it happened and it's something special. I don't have any words to explain this. This is pretty amazing. It doesn't happen every day."

It was the third perfect game in baseball this season — a first — joining gems by Chicago's Philip Humber against the Mariners in April and San Francisco's Matt Cain versus Houston in June. More than half of all perfectos — 12 — have come in the last 25 seasons.

This also was the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season, three of them at Safeco Field. Humber threw his gem in Seattle, then six Mariners pitchers combined to hold the Los Angeles Dodgers hitless at the park on June 8. There have been seven no-hitters in a season twice since 1900. It happened in 1990 and again in 1991, with Nolan Ryan throwing one in each of those years.

For the Rays, it was an all-too-familiar feeling. This was the third time in four seasons they had a perfect game pitched against them, following efforts by Dallas Braden in 2010 and Mark Buehrle in 2009.

"The one thing I've learned is that no-hitters and perfect games don't mean anything about tomorrow, anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Hernandez's dominance got stronger as the game progressed. He cruised for five innings, then pitched through tough at-bats, delay tactics and the mounting pressure of perfection to close out the gem. Hernandez struck out 12, including eight in the final four innings. He struck out the side in the sixth, did it again in the eighth and hit as high as 95 mph in the ninth.

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