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Back in 2010, when Hernandez was on his way to his first Cy Young, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was once almost hit by the pitch — after he completed his swing. That’s the embarrassment.

“It started away in the other batter’s box,” said Pedroia, simultaneously disgusted and amazed.

The confusion comes postgame or the next day. Players call it a split-finger (it’s not). They have a hard time labeling it a changeup because it travels too fast. Often, “whatever you call that thing” is the settled-on nomenclature.

Hernandez was a 19-year-old power pitcher when the Mariners called him up in 2005. He supplemented a high-90s fastball with a hard curveball. Over time, his fastball velocity has decreased, a detriment he countered with better movement and command. He now has squatter’s rights to both edges of the plate.

Teams like the patient Oakland Athletics will flip their gameplans against him in the middle innings. Earlier this season, he had a six-pitch inning against Oakland, an almost unheard-of swift dismissal of the major leagues’ team leader in walks.

Hernandez is not a pregame strategist who deciphers the past patterns of opponents, though. Despite previously facing just six members of the Nationals‘ roster, he will not spend time rewinding tape.

“I don’t really watch video,” Hernandez said Wednesday. “I don’t really see any scouting report. I just go out there with my plan. I’ve been around the league for a little while. I think I know a lot of players.”

Hernandez heads the majors’ best pitching staff. He’s backed by Hisashi Iwakuma, who finished third in Cy Young voting last season and has a 2.83 ERA in large part because of command (13 walks in 149⅓ innings this season) and a wipeout split-finger fastball. He’ll oppose Tanner Roark on Sunday. Right-hander Chris Young (12-6, 3.17 ERA) is on the mound Saturday against Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals cut Young in spring training.

When Hernandez pitches in Seattle, a section down the left-field line is labeled, “King’s Court.” Fans in those seats wear yellow T-shirts and chant “K! K! K!” whenever there are two strikes. The section will be expanded Friday night when the Nationals arrive with the best record in the NL.

Hernandez will also carry his emotions to the mound. He often will slap his glove in celebration of a big out while shouting in Spanish. In addition to being the franchise’s face, he’s also its competitive soul.

After dropping a series to the last-place Texas Rangers earlier in the week, Seattle’s three games against the Nationals are crucial. The Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001. Hernandez is trying to stave off postseason thoughts.

“Actually, I’m not thinking about that yet,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s going to be unbelievable [if we make it]. Our offense has been pretty good. We’ve got a pretty good chance to make it. I’m just happy for the team and going to be ready for it.”

The Nationals will need to be ready Friday night.