‘King Felix’ opens his season vs. longtime nemesis

Field Level Media

April 01, 2019 at 7:17 am.

Mike Trout and Felix Hernandez have had some epic matchups over the years.

Perhaps the best example came two years ago, when Trout had a 14-pitch at-bat against King Felix before fanning on a called third strike. There’s even a pitch-by-pitch video sequence of that showdown on FanGraphs.

The two are set to meet again Monday night, as Trout and the Angels travel to Seattle, where Hernandez is scheduled to make his season debut.

The two stars seem to be at opposite ends of their career trajectories, however.

Trout, 27, has been an All-Star in seven of his eight seasons, a six-time Silver Slugger and a two-time American League MVP.

There have been comparisons to the greatest center fielders who have played the game, such as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey Jr. and Duke Snider.

Trout signed a record-breaking 12-year, $426.5 million contract with the Angels during spring training.

“I’m just glad that I can focus on baseball, because that’s all I ever wanted out of this,” Trout said, saying the contract “is out of the way and we know we’re going to be here for a long time, so now it’s just about playing, winning and trying to win a championship.”

Hernandez has made six All-Star teams and is a former AL Cy Young Award winner.

But King Felix, who turns 33 on April 8, has fallen off of late.

He went 8-14 with a career-worst 5.55 ERA last season and is 0-8 with a 6.34 ERA in 11 games since his last victory, on June 30, 2018.

That led the Mariners to name Marco Gonzales their No. 1 starter, snapping Hernandez’s streak of 10 straight Opening Day starts.

It was a decision that upset Hernandez. But he’s on a team that is rebuilding, he’s entering the final year of his contract, and he was 0-1 with a 15.95 ERA in spring training.

“It was a tremendous run and he’s done awesome things,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after announcing King Felix would instead be the No. 5 starter.

“I just think where we’re at right now organizationally and where he’s at, he wants to have a big year, and this does give him more time to prepare for his first regular-season start.

“But that doesn’t make it any easier. But again, we try to take as much of the emotion out of it as you can and do what’s best for our ballclub.”

Hernandez is 16-18 with a 3.58 ERA in 53 career starts against the Angels, one of only three teams he has a losing record against with more than one career decision.

While Angels slugger Albert Pujols has a .194 career average against Hernandez, Trout is batting .373 in 83 at-bats with eight home runs and 20 RBIs.

The Angels will counter with right-hander Chris Stratton, who joined the team in a trade with San Francisco late in spring training.

Stratton, a former first-round draft pick who was 10-10 with a 5.09 ERA for the Giants last season, has never faced the Mariners.