With two outs in the first inning of today’s game, Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma walked Michael Brantley on four balls. Does that sound strange to you? Iwakuma’s name isn’t synonymous with the word “control,” but it might as well be. For him to issue a four-pitch walk is odd enough, but this was, in fact, his first (and only) walk issued in the month of July.
Iwakuma’s season-high for walks in a game: two, which he’s done twice. Iwakuma’s allowed more home runs than he has walks, and he hasn’t allowed a particularly jarring number of home runs. Last year, ‘Kuma improved on his MLB debut season in part by cutting his walk rate nearly in half. This year he’s done more than that, going from 1.72 BB/9 in 2013 to 0.69 today. He currently has the best walk rate amongst starters, by a lot.
Iwakuma, of course, just led the Mariners to a feel-good victory over the Cleveland Indians. He went seven innings, striking out six and allowing two runs on six hits and the aforementioned walk. His ERA fell to 3.06, which is still higher than Chris Young‘s ERA. You look at the offense and wonder how this team is 55-51. Then you look at the pitching staff and realize yeah, that’s why.
Perhaps you’re like most fans and aren’t satisfied with a decent-to-good team with the worst offense in the league. Who would be? Watching a miserable offense is exhausting, and Mariners fans have been playing this game for all too long. Take some solace in the fact that Dustin Ackley has been one of the best hitters in the league over the last two weeks. Lloyd McClendon slotted him in at the top of his lineup today, and Ackley responded with another three-hit game. Mike Zunino had two hits, including a homer, and Kyle Seager had two hits, including a triple. See, there’s some offense to be found on this team!
Then there’s Kendrys Morales, who struck out three times while failing to reach base yet again. He’s the worst right now, and it’ll be interesting to see how long his leash is. Chris Taylor had a hit out of the two-hole, and by that I mean Endy Chavez didn’t start and James Jones batted ninth. That’s progress! Jones, of course, had the same exact game as Morales. This team has a lot of holes.
Felix Hernandez vs. Corey Kluber. That’s tomorrow’s pitching matchup, and it’s about as good as one could ever hope for. 4:05pm start time, and holy crap King Felix and Corey Kluber! Kluber’s awesome. He’s been a 4.3 WAR arm so far, third-most valuable amongst all pitchers. You know the formula: strike out everybody, walk nobody, limit the home runs. He’s as exciting on the mound as he is a dead-eyed freak off it. This might not sound like a premium pitching matchup, but it is. It definitely is.