If the Seattle Mariners are going to make a push into the postseason, they need a lot of things to go right. One of those things involves veteran pitchers bouncing back in starts after poor showings. Hisashi Iwakuma did exactly that on Wednesday night, spinning seven innings of five-hit baseball, as the Mariners beat the Red Sox, 3-1.
Iwakuma was less than good his last time around, and he kept that heralded Boston offense on their toes for the better part of the game. Iwakuma retired the first six batters he faced, and finished the game with seven strikeouts. The Mariners needed to see good Iwakuma tonight, and they got it.
Unfortunately, the Mariners were also facing a good pitcher by the name of Rich Porcello. Porcello, outside of one mistake pitch to Nelson Cruz, looked like he was cruising along to his own win, despite the fact he just gave up the lead. But that mistake pitch? Boy, did Cruz just absolutely embarrass the hell out of that pitch.
That is the left field deck above Edgar’s, meaning that Cruz hit an upper deck shot. It was a blast, and it was great to see, because with the way Porcello continued to pitch, it looked like the Mariners were going to need the best of Iwakuma to escape with the win.
The Boston Red Sox were not kind to Porcello. Now Porcello understands what it is like to pitch well and lose games. The young guy was pitching his mind off, and here he is entering the sixth inning still down 1-0, because the Red Sox couldn’t muster any semblance of offense against Iwakuma. And again, just like how he led off the second, one pitch made all the difference. Mike Zunino took Porcello deep to center field—so deep in fact it caused Rick Rizz to talk about an herb garden located beyond the wall in center field that houses basil, oregano, and thyme, among other tasty delights.
Poor, poor Porcello. He is still pitching a heckuva game mind you. But now he has given up a total of two hits and he trails 2-0. Again, let me remind you that the Mariners won this game, and that Iwakuma was excellent. That 2-0 lead felt like just enough, and it then Adam Lind decided to pile up and make it 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh.
Rick Porcello’s having some dumb luck or something tonight, because that is now a 3-0 score off of three solo home runs, all while giving up a total of three hits. Porcello would redeem himself a bit, he finally got someone base who stopped at first instead of slowly trotting around all of them. Guy had a great game by all accounts, throwing eight innings, striking out eight, and giving up four hits and a walk. Of course, three of those four hits were home runs.
Drew Storen relieved Iwakuma in the top of the eighth inning and proceeded to look as uninspiring as a Guy Fieri creation made only using leftovers. Mookie Betts promptly singled to put two men on and one out, but Storen would retire the next two batters to save the lead.
Now it is the ninth inning, the Mariners are up 3-0, and things are exciting because Steve Cishek isn’t trying to make us all die early deaths due to heart disease. It is the sweet, sweet chords of Def Leppard and what seems a song that Edwin Diaz didn’t actually pick himself.
It was also a great introduction to the life of closing for Diaz. Last night, he mowed down the bottom of the Red Sox order with nothing but straight heaters and an accidentally thrown slider. Tonight it was a different story. Diaz got things going in a rather exciting fashion against David Ortiz. He sent Big Papi down on three straight strikes, getting Ortiz to swing through a high fastball clocked at 100.3 mph.
The sugar was no longer pouring on the ball. Instead, it was salt, and some of it got into Diaz’s eyes. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to right, Aaron Hill was hit by a pitch, and a wild pitch by Diaz later, and the Boston Red Sox had runners on second and third with only one out. Diaz would force a ground out to second that scored a runner before getting Sandy León to ground out.
It was a stressful showing by Diaz late, and considering how well Iwakuma had pitched and how what seemed to be JUST enough offense had been scored, it was going to be a real gut punch to see this one slip away. But at the same time, it was also encouraging to watch Diaz get some experience trying to close a game out against the heart of the order. It is only easy to type out “it was also encouraging” because we won the game.
Oh, and possibly most importantly, both the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros lost. That means we gained traction on not one, but TWO, of our mortal enemies down in that dystopian wasteland known as Texas. The Mariners have at least split the series with the Red Sox, and winning the series sure would be some nice momentum as the Angels come to town.