Felix Hernandez' first start against the White Sox was spolied by a fellow top prospect at the time. But Aug. 26, 2005 was the best day of Brian Anderson's career, while Hernandez went on to become one of baseball's most dominant pitchers.
In his first four starts in the majors, Hernandez was nearly untouchable. The then-19-year-old held opponents to a .353 OPS with four walks and 30 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched heading into the fifth start of his career, which came at home against the White Sox. None of the 16 hits he allowed went for extra bases. And his 1.24 ERA was hardly an encouraging sign for a team that had struggled throughout the month of August.
Making matters worse, Timo Perez was leading off against Hernandez that night. He singled to lead off the game, then promptly was caught stealing. The Sox were going to need all the help they could get to beat Hernandez.
And it was Anderson who provided all that help. He wasn't the first player to have an extra-base hit off Hernandez—that honor went to Jermaine Dye, who doubled in the second—but he became the first player to hit a home run off Hernandez with a third-inning solo blast.
Anderson would strike out looking in his next at-bat in the fifth, and in the bottom of the inning Yorvit Torrealba belted a solo home run off El Duque to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. With Hernandez on the mound, things didn't look to great for the Sox.
A sixth-inning rally was quashed when Hernandez struck out Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski with runners on first and second to end the inning. The top of the seventh started innocuously, with Dye flying out and Geoff Blum grounding out. But Juan Uribe drew his first walk in nearly a week to set up another Hernandez vs. Anderson showdown.
Remember, there was a time when Brian Anderson was a highly-regarded prospect. Obviously, not on the same level as Hernandez, who maybe was the biggest pitching prospect to make his MLB debut until Stephen Strasburg threw his first pitch for the Nationals last summer. Hernandez was Baseball America's No. 2 prospect, but Anderson was No. 37. If the rankings were predictors of future performance, both Hernandez and Anderson were poised to have fine careers in the major leagues.
Anderson belted a two-run home run off Hernandez to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead. It was the biggest hit Anderson would ever have in his career.
Hernandez would go on to win a Cy Young at age 24. Anderson finally fizzled out with the White Sox, getting sent to Boston for Mark Kotsay in the middle of 2009. He ended his White Sox career with a .225/.288/.364 line and 20 home runs. Ten percent of those blasts came on one night against Felix Hernandez.
Anderson gave up on the whole hitting thing after failing to make Kansas City's 25-man roster out of spring training last year and decided to try his hand at pitching. The Royals gave Anderson an opportunity to do that in the minors, where he recorded 17 strikeouts and five walks over 17.1 innings in rookie ball, Single A and Triple A.
He moved on to the Yankee organization for 2011, where he threw 7.2 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks before an injury sidelined him in early May. The Yankees released Anderson about three weeks later, and he currently is listed as a free agent.
Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez will earn over $70 million for the next four seasons. He very well could win another Cy Young while in Seattle.
If the 29-year-old Anderson ever makes it back to the majors, it'll be a surprise. But for one night, for two at-bats, Anderson was better than Hernandez.