Mariners’ Iwakuma becomes 2nd Japanese-born pitcher to toss no-no
SEATTLE — Off the bat, Hisashi Iwakuma believed the slicing flyball was going to find its way to the outfield grass and end his dream of joining an elite pitching fraternity one out shy.
Then he saw Seattle teammate Austin Jackson sprinting with his glove extended in the air, ready to squeeze the final out and put Iwakuma’s name next to Hideo Nomo as the only Japanese-born pitchers to throw a no-hitter.
"I can’t find the words to express my feelings," Iwakuma said through an interpreter after the fourth no-hitter in the major leagues this season. "I’m truly happy."
Iwakuma became the first American League pitcher in nearly three years to throw a no-hitter, silencing the Baltimore Orioles in the Mariners’ 3-0 victory on Wednesday.
Talented but often injured since arriving from Japan in 2012, the 34-year-old native of Tokyo didn’t overpower the Orioles.
That’s not his style.
Instead, Iwakuma smartly used a biting splitter and precise control to throw the fourth individual no-hitter in franchise history and become the oldest pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 to throw a no-no.
Iwakuma’s gem ended a streak of 11 consecutive individual no-hitters thrown by National League pitchers, including three this season: Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels — prior to his trade to Texas — Washington’s Max Scherzer and San Francisco’s Chris Heston.
The last AL pitcher to keep zeros across the board was teammate Felix Hernandez, who tossed a perfect game at Safeco Field on Aug. 15, 2012. And in an odd numerical coincidence, Hernandez’s perfect game against Tampa Bay came on 8/15/12, while Iwakuma’s no-hitter was on 8/12/15.
Not surprisingly, Hernandez was one of the first to greet Iwakuma as he was mobbed on the pitcher’s mound after the final out, wearing a fuzzy bear hat that was handed out to fans earlier in the season in a promotion to honor Iwakuma.
"I’m just glad it’s over. I’ve had to pee since the fifth inning," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon joked. "It’s pretty special. I’ve seen a lot. I thought in the fifth inning his stuff was really sharp and his split was coming out crisp. I thought you never know but he may have a shot here."
The right-hander struck out seven and walked three and while Jackson made a solid catch for the final out, the play everyone will remember is Kyle Seager’s contorting catch to open the ninth inning. Seager tracked David Lough’s foul ball near the stands and made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch for the first out.
"In that situation you’re not letting it get down if you can," Seager said. "You’re going to do whatever you can."
Baltimore was no-hit for the seventh time in franchise history and first since Boston’s Clay Buchholz in 2007. The Orioles best chance at getting to Iwakuma came in the fourth inning after Manny Machado walked to lead off and Gerardo Parra chopped a grounder in the hole between first baseman Mark Trumbo and second baseman Robinson Cano. Quickly moving to his left, Cano tracked down the grounder in shallow right field and threw across his body to get Parra at first.
Iwakuma walked Chris Davis with two outs, but he struck out Jimmy Paredes to end the threat.
Iwakuma also walked Jonathan Schoop on a check-swing, full-count pitch to open the eighth inning. But after striking out Ryan Flaherty looking, Iwakuma induced Caleb Joseph to ground into a double play.
After Lough fouled out to open the ninth, Machado grounded out to Seager and Parra flew out to shallow center field to end it. It was the first complete-game of Iwakuma’s career, having pitched 8 2/3 innings twice, including earlier this month against Minnesota.
"It’s not just a normal loss. We’re going down in the history books on the bad side of a no-hitter," Baltimore’s Adam Jones said. "But tip your cap. Iwakuma threw his game."
Iwakuma missed 2½ months early in the season after straining a muscle in his back and side. He’s been solid since returning and there were rumblings around the trade deadline Iwakuma might be moved.
"That’s all I thought was to come back and give it all I’ve got every start and make up for the lost time I had in the first half," Iwakuma said.
Iwakuma didn’t get a ton of offensive help. Franklin Gutierrez had an RBI double and Cano followed with an RBI single, both with two outs in the third off Kevin Gausman (2-4).
Jackson led off the fourth with a double and scored on Jesus Sucre’s RBI double, again with two outs. It was just the fifth hit of the season for Sucre, Seattle’s backup catcher.
Orioles: Catcher Matt Wieters was held out of the lineup a day after leaving the game with a mild hamstring strain. Manager Buck Showalter said Wieters was feeling better and the hope is he’ll be ready to play this weekend at home against Oakland.
Mariners: Cruz was given the day off in part because Seattle has an off-day on Thursday. McClendon seemed confident Cruz would be back in the lineup Friday in Boston.
Orioles: After a day off, Baltimore opens a 10-game homestand on Friday. Ubaldo Jimenez (9-7) starts the opener against Oakland.
Mariners: Seattle travels to the East Coast to open a six-game road trip in Boston. Mike Montgomery (4-4) starts the opener against the Red Sox.