Hisashi Iwakuma is pretty good.
Thing is, the Mariners would be damn lucky just to have a pitcher like Hisashi Iwakuma on their roster. The San Diego Padres' ace, Andrew Cashner, has been worth 1.1 fWAR in nine games, striking out seven batters per nine innings pitched, and has walked 17 batters all season. His baseball team is not good, but they are lucky to have him, really, and after his spot in the rotation things get to look a little dicey and negative WAR-y.
The Seattle Mariners have an ace, and we aren't going to talk about him because we are going to talk about their number two guy, who has pitched in four games this year. In those four games, he has walked one batter and given up one home run. That's it. In these four games, he has been worth just under a win. Three weeks ago, this man wasn't pitching on the Mariners. The Mariners were winning baseball games and throwing out hitters who weren't supposed to be doing well and pitchers who weren't really supposed to be doing well, and then this guy appeared in a Mariners uniform and offered his services to the team. And now here we are.
Yes, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched another gem today, needing only 99 pitches to go through eight full innings against the Texas Rangers. Now granted, he was facing a Rangers ballclub without Prince Fielder. Granted, he only managed to get three strikeouts on the day. Granted, he gave up an early home run to our favorite betestacled third baseman Adrian Beltre early in the second inning, but then settled down into a nice groove, only giving up another run in the fourth following his *only* walk of the season to Elvis Andrus, who scored on an Alex Rios RBI single a few moments later.
Here's a little montage of Iwakuma's evening, which includes a wonderful diving catch by Condor and his three strikeouts, as well as a myriad of BABIP related fiascos from Rangers bats. He seems to be looking at his finger throughout this clip which is kind of terrifying because that's what derailed the start of his season, but on the other hand might be nothing more than Iwakuma looking down and thinking wait maybe I didn't even need this in the first place.
So yes, Iwakuma was lights-out. The Mariners needed that. They also needed a solid ninth from Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar, who came in because it wasn't a save situation. The Rodney Experience sat for a day, but that doesn't mean we will have smooth sailing for the rest of the week or anything.
The good news was that the Mariners' bats decided to join Iwakuma in his brilliance on the day, and the M's took full advantage of Nick Franklin, who ended up 2-3 on the day. I'm sure he had a thing or two to say to everyone in the dugout throughout the evening, but what really matters is that he said it with his bat as well, which is all that really matters.
The Mariners first got on the board in the third, which saw a whole shit ton of bloop singles scoring M's runners like some sort of candy dance at the Wonka factory. First it was Brad Miller, dribbling a fly ball into left field. Next up came James Jones, who dragged a bunt down the first base line to hit in his eleventh-straight start, breaking Edgar Martinez's club record. James Jones isn't going to be as good of a hitter as Edgar Martinez. He's trotting out a BABIP of .375 on the season and only has 54 plate appearances. But for a hot minute today, he did something really incredible, and all that really matters is that it helped the Mariners win. And he's helping the Mariners win.
But anyway, yes, men on first and second for Michael Saunders, who also had a line drive single into center of his own, scoring Brad Miller. Next, Cano walked, and after a Justin Smoak strikeout, Kyle Seager blooped two in followed by a deep fly ball from Nick Franklin that for once didn't fool Dave Sims. The scoring continued seemingly throughout the game, with an RBI single from Cano in the fourth that scored an HBP Mike Zunino and a double in the seventh from Dustin Ackley, who scored an HBP Nick Franklin. Looks like the M's marketing team has it all wrong. Seager might be practicing beanballs in BP, but it looks like the M's have a new set of Ty Cobb challengers in their midst.
All in all it was a good start to the series against the Rangers, as the M's found their way back to .500 with a legitimate win behind good innings from a great pitcher. Brad Miller went 1-3 with a walk, which is unfortunately a bit of a revelation for the guy. James Jones continued his hit streak, Robinson Cano continued his on-base streak, and Nick Franklin made himself very welcome in uniform for the day.
Meanwhile, Corey Hart is probably sitting on his couch and watching True Detective on his iPad, icing his hamstring and downing a few salt-less margaritas made in his home blender. He knows he is going to be out for quite some time, and for a moment he thinks about Kendrys Morales, wherever he is at, and worries about his job. I'm not sure if Jack Zduriencik is thinking about Kendrys either, but it seems only inevitable that someones phone is going to ring sometime in the next couple of days. It will be telling to see what happens over these next couple games.
Until then, go M's.