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TB@SEA: Pena backhands grounder, hustles for an out

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez truly was "The King" on Wednesday afternoon, as the Mariners ace hurled a perfect game against the Rays in a 1-0 Mariners win before 21,889 at Safeco Field.

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

In completing the rarest of pitching feats, Hernandez became the third hurler to throw a perfect game against the Rays and the fifth to throw a no-hitter against them. Dallas Braden was the most recent to throw a perfecto vs. Tampa Bay, which he did for the Athletics on May 9, 2010. The first was accomplished by Mark Buehrle for the White Sox on July 23, 2009. Edwin Jackson was the most recent to no-hit the Rays, with his no-no coming against his former team on June 28, 2010.

Sean Rodriguez became the final out of Hernandez's masterpiece when he watched strike three go past.

"My whole approach was to look for a heater out over the plate, not try to do too much, just try and hit it back through the middle," Rodriguez said. "A basic hitting approach."

Rodriguez got ahead in the count, 2-0, and looked for a fastball.

"And as hard as he throws, I could easily hit one into the gap or over the wall," Rodriguez said.

Hernandez threw a slider. Rodriguez swung and missed. He then watched a curveball pass over home plate for strike two.

"I went back to basically looking for the heater [at that point]," Rodriguez said. "And the last pitch. Some would say it's a strike, some would say it's a ball. It's a great pitch on his part."

The Rays are the only team in baseball history to have three perfect games thrown against them during the regular season. The Dodgers have had three thrown against them, but one came during the World Series when Don Larsen threw a perfect game against them on Oct. 8, 1956.

By losing, the Rays dropped a series for the first time since losing two games of a three-game set against the Orioles on Aug. 3-5. The Rays are now 63-54 on the season as they head to Anaheim to begin a four-game series against the Angels.

Hernandez was dominant throughout, not allowing anything remotely close to a base hit while retiring all 27 Rays in order.

How good was he? Elliot Johnson, who went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts before Jeff Keppinger pinch-hit for him in the ninth, said, "I mean I fouled off one ball. I didn't put a ball in play. All I did was foul one off and that was because it didn't sink as much as the other one. ... Any guy who throws that hard with that much movement is going to be tough to hit. I don't care who you are."

Hernandez didn't even get rattled when Joe Maddon went to home plate to argue balls and strikes with umpire Rob Drake with two outs in the seventh. The Rays manager was ejected while Hernandez continued to go about his business, retiring Matt Joyce on a grounder to end the inning.

"Felix overcame that," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I was just yelling at Joe to get his [behind] out of there so he could go back to pitching."

Hernandez's batterymate was former Rays catcher John Jaso. Never known for his defensive prowess while with the Rays, he did everything expected of a catcher on Wednesday. And it didn't hurt that he knew the Rays hitters.

"I've been on the Rays before," Jaso said. "I know their approach against Felix. It's to hit that fastball and hit it early. You don't want to go to the secondary stuff because that's what gets you out."

Jeremy Hellickson started for the Rays and was up to the task, but unfortunately, he allowed a run in the seven innings he worked, and that was all that Hernandez needed.

Brendan Ryan singled off Hellickson to start the Mariners' third. Two outs later, Ryan took off to steal second base in an attempt that coincided with a Hellickson wild pitch. Ryan reached third on the play, then scored when Jesus Montero singled to left.

"Helly was great," Maddon said. "I mean how about that, you have to wear a 1-0 loss like that. ... I liked the way he challenged with his fastball."

The Rays lost a tough one on Tuesday night when Carlos Pena's costly error helped lead the Mariners to a two-run ninth, then they had a perfect game thrown against them on Wednesday. Looking ahead, they will face the likes of Dan Haren, Jared Weaver, C.J.Wilson and Zack Greinke in Anaheim. So it won't get any easier on Thursday.

Having a perfect game thrown against them "means nothing," Maddon said. "For me, we just have to move on, get out of here. Move on. They pitched well against us. I think the one thing I've learned is that no-hitters and perfect games have nothing to do with tomorrow."

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