It has been almost three years to the day that an American League pitcher threw a no-hitter. That pitcher, as everyone here knows well enough, was Felix Hernandez, who threw the last perfect game in Major League Baseball. Since then, a handful of no-hitters have been thrown in the National League. Today, in front of twenty-five thousand fans, his teammates, a national audience by the end of the game, and even his family, Hisashi Iwakuma threw the fifth no-hitter in Seattle Mariners franchise history and only the third no-hitter by a Japanese pitcher.
If you don't mind, I'd like to take you back to the last time this happened, before I dig in to this current time. On August 15th, 2012, I was running a landscaping service with a couple buddies and had randomly run in to an off-day in the schedule. I was recently moved back from living in Australia and was still adjusting to life in the States. The Hawks had drafted some cookie-cutter interview quarterback named Wilson. The Mariners were just grinding out the end of another wasted season. That game, I watched from first to last, for some odd reason. I called my dad in the bottom of the third inning to tell him Felix was throwing a perfect game. My dad made it home by the seventh and we watched it together.
And I think that odd reason I watched THAT game was because even though it had been so long since I considered "home", the Seattle Mariners were so locked in to my association with comfort. They are so near to my experience with any emotion including "summer", "baseball", "blue skies", etc. They are the beauty of the Pacific Northwest embodied, even if that embodiment has included so much pain and suffering. Because here's the thing: the losing, the playoff drought, the poorly constructed rosters, all that shit, that's not fucking pain. This is baseball. There is no pain in observing a loss. No true pain. At the base this team provides us what we need from it. In turn, we give it what we want. They give us community, memories, entertainment, a place to defer feelings. These are the things we need. In exchange, we give them the things we want. We give them our time, we give them our money.
Fast forward almost three full years from the day of that Felix start. Here we all stand, or sit, likely sit, since you are on a device while reading this. Think of all that has gone on in those three years. If you're like me, so much has. I graduated from college and then from grad school. I've been brokenhearted. I've fallen in love. I've moved four times. Started jobs, started a business. Seen loss, seen gain. Seen Life's predictable unpredictability pass by. The Seattle Mariners have stood during that time. Hisashi Iwakuma has stood during that time. Both have provided firm points of reference while charting our collective journeys through seas uncharted.
And we all know it, how this season has felt and gone to this point. It has been disappointing. But it has been fun, too. This group of players is capable of entertaining us more than any group has in recent memory. From Felix, to Nelson, Robbie, Seager, Tai, Ketel, Montero, Jackson, both Smiths, even Trumbo last night, they have given us all what we need. That spark when we just don't have it, it's out there on that field with them. They can give it to us if they so collectively choose. Of course, there are nights where they have been bitterly frustrating. My worst game I have ever attended was a home loss to the Giants this very season. The lineup for this one was uninspiring; Cruz was nursing a neck injury, and Sucre would be behind the dish. But I'll be damned if I don't tell you that this no-hitter by The Bear hasn't come when I've been harping on playoffs for weeks.
Today the Seattle Mariners faced a pitcher at the top of his game, and their three, hard-earned runs were enough to win the contest. Franklin Gutierrez, Robinson Cano, and Jesus Sucre all had RBIs to lead the offense. A special nod needs to be made to Ketel Marte, who put together multiple, professional at-bats and while he only manufactured a walk, did score, and is the first M's prospect in recent memory who has risen up with what appears to be command of the strike zone. In all honesty, the O's outfield saved a few hits tonight and the M's maybe could have scored a couple more with a little luck. By the last few innings the batters weren't concerned with it, however. The only goal was to get back out on the field as quickly as possible. To sell out whatever part of the body had to be auctioned for their pitcher.
Their own pitcher, the M's pitcher, was not at the top of his game. He was at the very height, the peak. That utmost point he has dreamed of reaching since he first realized it existed through the fog and the clouds. That peak, once reserved for only the loftiest of reverie, was reached today. To climb above the Bear's form today has only happened a handful of times in tens of thousands of tries. Revel in that. In the pitcher we perceived to be broken at the outset of the season, of the trade-piece some wanted shipped for younger hopes, in the loyal man on top of the hill who has worked so tirelessly for our entertainment. In the now whole again Bear.
It was the third inning where I texted everyone I knew who cared about the M's that this would be special. I told one of the writers here that Kuma looked "capable" and said if it was still a no-no by the end of the fifth, it was time to find a bar. There is a certain dominance that, granted most hold unwavering for nine full innings, but is perceivable from the first few pitches. This is the sort of dominance that can only accompany a special outing. So much most go right for this to happen. The above play by Kyle Seager is indicative. However, the pitcher must have with him an arsenal that is untouchable. One pitch, typically, must be absolutely on-fire. For The Bear today, it was that sinker.
All night, beside one missed pitch to Adam Jones that was luckily fouled-off, the sinker broke at the knees, or dipped even lower. He had it on a string. It never left the bottom of the zone. Early season Iwakuma would float a few pitches for one inning and have to come out. That was not the case this game. What was equally exciting was the second offering he was coupling with the sinker. A high and uptight fastball brushing 92 MPH that was used simply to adjust the eyes. Some were swung at for strikeouts, others simply lead to them. In the biz they say, "It takes two to tango."
And this is how Iwakuma worked for nine full innings. He threw seven strike outs, allowed three walks, and most importantly, and as has been stated before, allowed no hits. He kept the ball down, and his defense backed him when they needed to. Kyle Seager had several plays today, a slick double play was turned by Marte and Cano, and Jackson patrolled center field like the beautiful, jungle cat we know he his. Hisashi was visibly emotional at the end of the game. Something I'm sure we were all guilty of. The Bear threw 116 pitches. It is a number of some significance to this franchise.
The last 3 no-hitters thrown by AL pitchers have been thrown by the @Mariners: Iwakuma Felix Hernandez 8/15/2012 6 pitchers 6/8/2012— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 12, 2015
BREAKING: Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma becomes 2nd Japanese pitcher to throw no-hitter, beats Orioles 3-0.— The Associated Press (@AP) August 12, 2015
There has never been a no-hitter thrown on an August 12th— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 12, 2015
Iwakuma: "I can't find the words to express it. I'm truly happy."— Andrew Erickson (@AndrewRErickson) August 12, 2015
Allow me to level with you for a brief moment here. When I was hired by this site to start covering the Mariners, I was in the midst of the toughest time of my life. For various reasons, things weren't going my way. Family, job hunt, relationship, school, you name it. It was all tearing me apart. So many things beyond the realm of my control were working against me, holding me down. I felt myself breaking down in a way I had no means to cope with. I kept looking forward to a successful Mariners team to give me something to enjoy. That didn't happen. Things didn't get better, both in my relationship or this baseball season. I watched as the ups and downs of this season mirrored the gut-churning of my personal life. Writing was a solace, but I would be lying if I said that every soul-sucking loss I had to find words to describe on this site didn't take a piece out of me. I never lost hope, and I still haven't in this very moment, that the Seattle Mariners are going to make the playoffs this season.
Today, just as the last time, in the middle of the seventh inning I saw my father. That man who had invested so much of his time and money in my own baseball career. We both sat and watched Hisashi Iwakuma battle through the final at-bats. It was an alien experience of great familiarity. It was quiet, as I'm sure it was for you. The edge of the seat was the most comforting place in the building. Parra pops out to Jackson, before it's even caught I'm celebrating. He is, too. Today is justification for all those sleepless nights. All that emotional that I have no control over the source of, it was rewarded here today. One man gave us all something larger than himself. We do not feel the disappointment of this season, the hard work that has to happen between now and October to make my belief of the postseason a reality. That is the beauty of sport, of this game of baseball. It is transcendent. Jesus does not feel it it either.