On Wednesday the eighteenth of September in the year two thousand and thirteen, there was a baseball game. Well, actually there were fifteen games, and that’s only counting Major League Baseball. Broaden the scope to include NPB and the KBO, then factor in, I don’t know, amateur leagues and whatnot, and there may have been hundreds of baseball games played on Wednesday. Include pick-up stickball in alley ways and maybe we’re talking thousands. But I digress. The game we’re concerned with featured the Mariners, who are winding down another awful season by mailing it in, and the Tigers, who are maybe the best team in the AL. The game was won by the Mariners, by eight runs.
Mariners eight, Tigers zero. How did this happen? Hisashi Iwakuma, for one, and Phil Coke, for another. Can I start calling Kuma a “co-ace” now? He’s certainly not on Felix’s level, since nobody aside from Clayton Kershaw is on Felix’s level, but he’s settled in as something more than a nifty number two starter. Right now The King is on the shelf, so Iwakuma is the nominal ace of the staff. The Tigers have one of the better offenses in the game, highlighted by the best hitter alive. Over eight innings, Iwakuma held that offense to four hits, including exactly none off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. He struck out six, including Cabrera twice. He only allowed two walks and generated twelve groundouts. This is what Hisashi Iwakuma looks like at or near his best: an ace, capable of destroying even the most potent of lineups.
Of course, the Tigers fielded an ace of their own tonight in Justin Verlander. For all the talk about Verlander not being himself anymore, he’s still been excellent in 2013. Verlander is still an ace’s ace, although due to the insanity that is the 2013 Tigers rotation he has actually been their third best starter behind Anibal Sanchez and soon-to-be Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. Against these Mighty Mariners, however, Verlander stumbled. To his credit he only allowed four hits, but to not his credit he walked three batters and allowed a sixth-inning solo homer to Justin Smoak. The Mariners also got two runs off Verlander in the second, as Smoak led off with a walk and was doubled home by Michael Saunders, who then scored on a Nick Franklin single.
With the Mariners staked to a three-run lead, Phil Coke came in to make things comfortable. Coke, as you may remember, has long been a notorious Mariner punching bag. Coke allowed a couple of doubles and couple of intentional walks, including one to Nick Franklin (!?!) before being replaced with the bases loaded. Al Alburquerque promptly unleashed a two-run wild pitch. Franklin Gutierrez added a solo shot in the ninth, and Danny Farquhar worked around a walk to close things out. He didn’t get a save, but he did strike out two batters. Strikeouts are very important!