No-hitters happen all the time, they say. Used to be that a no-no was something special, something that didn’t come around all that often. And while it’s true that no-hitters are becoming more common as pitchers become more powerful, it’s also true that what Hisashi Iwakuma just did to the Baltimore Orioles is absolutely monumental. His accomplishment was rare and puts him in rarified company. This performance was nothing to laugh about.
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Hisashi Iwakuma pitched the fifth no-hitter in Seattle Mariners history this afternoon, walking three over nine shutout innings while leading the M’s to their third consecutive series win. The victory brings the Mariners to 13-13 since the All-Star break and brings them closer to a .500 record on the year. It was also a no-hitter! By Hisashi Iwakuma! Today!
Not all no-no’s are created equal, and this absolutely one of the good ones. This wasn’t one of those seven-walk slop fests by a pitcher with a heavy fastball and no sense of the strike zone – no, this was just a dominant outing from a guy who had it all working for him. It’d be inaccurate to say that Iwakuma got better and better as he went on, seeing as he had it going from the get-go.
In the first inning, Iwakuma struck out Adam Jones without letting him see a ball. He did so again in the fourth though this Jones K came with a runner on first. He followed the one-out strikeout with a walk to Chris Davis, putting two runners on and coming as close to a “jam” as he would again all day. He got Jimmy Paredes to swing through a nasty sinker to end the frame.
Baltimore started young fireballer Kevin Gausman, who set a career-high in strikeouts while routinely getting his fastball up to 98 miles per hour. The M’s were mostly stymied by him but did manage to knock across three runs while he was in the game. They did most of their damage with doubles, including one from – wait for it – Jesus Sucre, which plated a run. It was his second RBI of the year. As much as Nelson Cruz has an offensive season to remember, Sucre is doing the same thing but at the opposite extreme.
Iwakuma set down the side in order in the first, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth innings. He allowed the two walks in the fourth, and one more in the eighth that was quickly erased with a double play grounder to Ketel Marte at short. It’s funny, because when does Iwakuma ever allow three whole walks in a single game? That’s so very unlike him, and it’s fittingly hilarious that the day he gives out an unusual number of free passes is also the day he doesn’t allow a hit. They can’t all be perfect, after all.
Speaking of which, this was the first American League no-hitter since Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. We’re only three days away from the third anniversary of that incredible feat. The last AL no-no before the perfecto was also pitched by the Mariners! That was on June 9th, 2012, when Kevin Millwood left with an injury after six hitless innings and watched as Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen kept the Dodgers from a hit the rest of the way.
Up until 2012, Safeco Field had never seen a no-hitter. It’s now seen four – most in the majors over that time span. Yeah, yeah, it’s a pitcher’s park and all that, but no-no’s are so rare and require so much luck to happen. We’ve been lucky, is what I’m saying. Perfect game once, and incredibly fortunate three other times.
Remember what we were saying about Hisashi Iwakuma two weeks ago? That maybe he was about to be gone, and maybe he should be gone, and that the alleged mandate not to trade him was just another sign of a meddlesome ownership group that refused to acknowledge that the on-field product required some serious tweaking. Look at us now. Trade Iwakuma at the deadline and this game are probably just Roenis Elias getting bombed. Now we have a no-hitter, and we still have Hisashi Iwakuma. Hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes that’s okay.
If you were wondering whether or not Iwakuma will be back next year, this should just about guarantee that yes, he will. The M’s liked him enough for his nationality, to say nothing of his ability on the mound. Now there’s the additional appeal of the no-hitter he threw at home in front of an unusually robust Wednesday afternoon crowd. Suddenly his harsh season-to-date looks more like the product of injury than anything else. Aging? Phooey! Dude just tossed a no-no!
Kudos to ‘Kuma, who becomes only the second-ever Japanese-born pitcher to throw an MLB no-hitter, joining Hideo Nomo. The National League has been having all the no-hit fun for years – well, the NL and the Seattle Mariners, that is. Congratulations are due to an incredible pitcher for what will surely go down as a career highlight. Seattle loves you, Iwakuma.