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On This Date in Sports August 15, 2012: King Felix

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Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners tosses the third Perfect Game of the 2012 season, blanking the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 at Safeco Field. Previously Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox and Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants tossed Perfect Games. It is the 23rd overall Perfect Game in Major League history. Hernandez had 12 strikeouts as the Mariners scored on an RBI single by Jesus Montero in the third inning. There has not been a Perfect Game since. 

There have been 23 Perfect Games in Major League history. They are rare and they special. The first two Perfect Games came within five days of each other in 1880, when Lee Richmond of the Worcester Worcesters blanked the Cleveland Blues 1-0 on June 12th, and Monte Ward of the Providence Grays blanked the Buffalo Bisons 5-0, five days later. Cy Young threw the first Perfect Game in the modern era with the Boston Americans in 1904, blanking the Philadelphia Athletics 3-0. 

The most famous Perfect Game came in the 1956 World Series when Don Larsen of the New York Yankees blanked the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0 in Game 5. When Larsen tossed his Perfect Game, there had not been a Perfect Game in 34 years when Charlie Robertson of the Chicago White Sox blanked the Detroit Tigers 2-0. After Larsen, there were three Perfect Games in the 1960s and none in the 1970s. There were three in the 1980s, and four Perfect Games in the 1990s, including David Wells and David Cone, who threw Perfect Games in back-to-back seasons for the Yankees. 

After two in the first decade of the 21st Century, there was a sudden uptick in Perfect Games in 2010, as Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics and Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies achieved perfection 20 days apart. It was the first time since 1880 that two Perfect Games were thrown in the same season. The first Perfect Game was also at Seattle's Safeco Field on April 21st, with Phillip Humber of the Chicago White Sox blanking the Mariners 4-0, striking out nine along the way. Humber is the worst pitcher to throw a Perfect Game, as he only managed 16 career wins. Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants had the most dominant performance, blanking the Houston Astros 10-0, with 14 strikeouts. Cain also had a hit and scored a run in the game at AT&T Park. 

Felix Hernandez, dubbed King Felix in Seattle, was the face of the Mariners. He made his debut with Seattle at the age of 19 in 2005 and quickly became one of the top pitchers in the American League. Hernandez won the Cy Young in 2010, despite playing on a poor Mariners team. When he made starts at Safeco Field, it became an event for fans in the Pacific Northwest starving for a contender. 

It was a Wednesday afternoon in August when Felix Hernandez faced the Tampa Bay Rays, who had Jeremey Hellickson on the mound. Hernandez had a record of 10-5 heading into the start. Felix Hernandez was efficient but not overpowering the first time through the lineup, as he had just two strikeouts. The Mariners produced a run in the third inning as Brendan Ryan had a leadoff single. After two outs, Ryan stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He would score on a single by Jesus Montero. 

Given a 1-0 lead, Felix Hernandez began to find a groove as he struck out a pair of batters in the fourth and struck out the side in the sixth. He again struck out the side in the eighth inning as he had history in the palm of his hand for the ninth inning. Pinch hitter Desmond Jennings struck out to start the ninth. Jeff Keppinger also pinch hitting had a weak grounder to short for the second out. The final batter was Sean Rodriguez, who struck out looking as Felix Hernadez threw his arms up high in celebration of a Perfect Game.