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Iwakuma returns to form as Mariners do not horribly lose to vastly superior baseball team

The Mariners beat the Angels on Saturday, 5-0. More than one person did a Good Thing. I know, I know.

yes yes, I too am surprised
yes yes, I too am surprised
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Mariners made a very difficult decision last week, electing to send down the erratic-yet-reliable Roenis Elias to AAA after right-hand-command-machine Hisashi Iwakuma had been deemed healthy enough to pitch in the bigs once more. As you may recall, his first start back was...less than optimal. And if we're being honest, I don't remember a single thing about it except for the feeling of yuck hovering around my stomach like I had just spent a day drinking mountain dew between chugs of pop rocks. So how would the 2013 All Star look to rebound in his, his second start since returning from the DL?

  1. Eight-pitch walk to Johnny Giavotella
  2. Five-pitch single given up to the bat of Kole Calhoun
  3. Stupid dumb Mike Trout single to load the stupid bases

It was, to put it lightly, not the sexiest return to form, especially since the form everyone was hoping for was the good Iwakuma, who when missing his spots, actually misses in the zone as opposed to outside of it. The 34-year old former Osaka Buffalo made a career on this, and it's really kind of nuts when you think about it--it would be the most amazing skill to have for games like darts (aw rats, I was trying to hit the outside of the bullseye, not right in the middle of it!), and although it has resulted in one or two too many dingers as a result, he's an absolute monster when he's hitting his speeds correctly.

But in the middle of that first inning yesterday, it was looking more and more likely that the days of Good Iwakuma had already sunsetted down past the horizon, leaving memories of New York parades and swinging K's behind like your sun-soaked skin cooling off in the evening air. So how did he get out of it?

  1. Lucky strikeout to Albert Pujols.
  2. Force out at home (which saw Giavotella trying to take out Zunino on the slide to break up the double play).
  3. A screamer into the gap which was not caught by a diving Nelson Cruz to make the best play of his career, because ha, why would that ever oh wait

So to be clear, Hisashi Iwakuma, who looked like he could be riding the rest of the season out of the bullpen, lucked out of a bases-loaded-no-out-first-inning situation with a strikeout to a player currently trotting out a wRC+ of 141, had a run saved before watching his catcher nearly get torn in half, and then escaped the whole thing with the knees of a 35-year-old video-game cheat code who made an Andrew McCuctchen look like an Endy Chavez. Ok.

But then, by the second inning, something had changed. After throwing approximately 9,482 pitches in the top of the first, Iwakuma emerged from the dugout with about three years shaved off his right arm and decided that it would be perhaps a Good Thing to pick up where he left off in 2013. He started hitting the corners. He got into a rythym. He was still leaving shit hanging over the plate a bit, but you can get away with that when you're throwing your curve for 71, your splitter for 87, and your fastball for 93. Yes, Hisashi Iwakuma was hitting 93 last night. He hit 93 and lasted eight innings and only gave up three hits.

Hisashi Iwakuma, the broken, bleeding finger halfway to 70 snagged six strikeouts for his first win of the season, and he did it like this:


Hisashi Iwakuma, corner nibbler and strike zone extraordinaire not only survived an at bat to Mike Trout in which the only strike was belt-high over the got dang corner of the plate, he earned an honest-to-god swinging strikeout on a curveball which very well may prove itself to be the difference between what we all feared was our Number Two's reality and what actually is.

You know what else is, or I should say knowing how this win-loss pattern has gone, was? Nine Mariner hits, five walks, and five runs--mostly coming from the middle of the order but hey I'd take five runs from one guy at this point. The M's got to it in the second inning, fresh off C.J. Wilson making it look like it was going to be another one of those games. But then, a single off spry-legged Nelson Cruz, another from Kyle Seager, and then a walk past the watchful eye of former Angel Mark Trumbo, who just might be returning to form just in time for the Mariners to mount a season-saving ten-game winning streak.*


Up to the plate strolled the ice cream man. For the first time in his life, he was surrounded by 40,000 people, screaming, shouting, baptizing him with almost exactly twelve months of anger turned to adulation. You can only imagine what was going through his head at this moment, flashing before his eyes like that part in Armageddon where Bruce Willis is about to press the detonator to blow up the asteroid and save the world and then has his whole life flash before his eyes. Except what Montero saw wasn't excessively cinematic staged images of Liv Tyler--no, that wasn't the part of Jesus Montero that died last night.

Instead it was that slimy guy in the Florida clubhouse with the greasy hair and gold chain buried in a sea of chest hair--you know, A Rod's pal. It was the grain of wood on the table burned into his eyes while his phone was telling him he was suspended for nearly as many games as he had ever played. It was the couch, the food, the bum leg, the excess weight and the scorn, oh god, the scorn. It was the fucking Ice Cream Sandwich. Jesus Montero had seconds to live.

Wilson, meanwhile, seemed off. And while he was surely at least aware of the big details about the former prospect--come on everyone was drawn to that story--he had his own battle to fight, all but unaware of the Moment of Transcendence going on in front of him. That's because Wilson couldn't throw strikes. Call it luck, call it nerves, call it divine interference for the remaking of Jesus Montero. But as the baseballs started to hover off and below the plate, Montero felt himself more and more aware of his new body, literally transformed like a phoenix in flight.

Ball two.

Ball three.

Well it wasn't quite the stuff of legend, but dammit, he knew this new Jesus Montero was about working hard, putting the fate of the team on his back when it was his turn up at the plate. He thought it was going to be a gimme over the plate, ready to be deposited over the outfield wall for what would easily be the single best moment of not only the Seattle Mariners 2015 season, but also, arguably, the best moment of his entire life.

Instead it was ball four. With the bases loaded. An RBI walk. And at that moment of confusing disappointment dressed up in strange competency he was made anew. Jesus Montero. Only...well...Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariner. Because beggars can't be fucking choosers.

The Mariners made it out of the second with two runs, and while it's so very Mariners that they couldn't actually hit in one of the four people standing on base with no outs, they count just the same in the end. Just like they did in the third inning, when Franklin Gutierrez reached on an error, got thrown out trying to steal (god, what are you doing glass man, it's not worth it), was replaced by Nelson Cruz with a walk, and then snagged a third run after Mark Trumbo knocked Cruz in with a base hit, with runners in scoring position! Keep them fingers crossed, ladies and gentlemen.

So yeah, the Mariners got a bunch of hits and things, and a 108-year old lady threw out a three-foot first pitch, and Robinson Cano once again got hit in the head by a baseball thrown from the hand of a player wearing an Angels uniform.


This here came on the first pitch of the fifth inning, and it's arguably the most anxiety I've ever seen a pitcher express after beaning someone in the middle of a game. Cano was fine, thankfully, and while C.J. Wilson has always been one of the more obnoxious baseball men I've had to watch on my teevee, I was pretty taken aback by this show of raw emotion after such a scary moment. Then he tagged out Robinson Cano at home after tossing off a wild pitch and I was back to hating him like usual, the no good stupid dumb nincompoop.

Trumbo and Logan Morrison--who subbed in for Jesus Montero after a right-hander took the mound--were responsible for knocking in the remaining two Mariner runs and pretty soon it was Mark Lowe in there, throwing ninety-seven-miles-per-hour and the Mariners were walking off as victors.

One of these days, this obnoxious W-L-W-L-W-L-W-W-L-L-W-L-W-L chicanery is going to stop, and it sure would be nice to maybe do it in the final game before the All Star Break. Which luckily starts in only a few hours. So get to it, and as we like to say around these parts, goms, etc.