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<  Shannon Drayer

Felix Hernandez wins A.L. pitcher of the month

HOUSTON – After putting up a 1.22 ERA and striking out 54 batters over six games in June, Felix Hernandez has been named American League Pitcher of the Month.

Felix did not allow more than two earned runs in any game he threw against the Yankees, Rays, Rangers, Padres, Red Sox and Indians in June. His ERA was second only to Angels starter Garrett Richards – who pitched 10 fewer innings – and his 2.1 wins above replacement were the best in the league.

It was his second-best June with his top mark set in 2009. That year Felix started one fewer game but threw just four fewer innings and recorded an ERA of 0.94 while allowing just 25 hits and four earned runs.

Felix has been on a tear since allowing four earned runs to the Rays May 12. In nine games since then he has allowed just 10 earned runs and struck out 77. He is now 18 games into the 2014 season and has an ERA of 2.10 with 137 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting .210 against him and he has walked just 22 batters. In 2010, the year he won the Cy Young Award, through 18 games he had a 3.01 ERA with 122 strikeouts and 40 walks. Opponents were hitting .224 against him.

He is well ahead of his Cy Young year, but does he have a finish in him like 2010? Over his final 10 games that year he put up an ERA of 0.96 and within that span he had a six-game stretch in which he allowed one earned run. He had the award within his sights and responded.

With the cushion he has now with his ERA he won't need a stretch as remarkable, but it is not out of the question. To me, his pitches look every bit as nasty as they were in 2010 and now he has the added benefit of the extra velocity on his fastball. He also has the added benefit of run support. He is not going out there every time knowing that he has no room for error.

Finally, there's the extra-gear factor. Never mind the Cy Young, Felix could be playing for the postseason, the one thing in this game he has wanted the most. I am very interested to see what we see from Felix if that is the case.

For now, he's the best in June.

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