ARLINGTON, Texas — Earlier in the day, MLB Network was being played throughout Globe Life Park in Arlington on assorted televisions, including the Mariners’ clubhouse. The network touted the outstanding starting pitching scheduled for the night.
It talked about Detroit’s hard-throwing ace Justin Verlander, analyzed the brilliant start of the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, gushed about Royals phenom Yordano Ventura and his 100-mph fastball and even talked about the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, who came into the night with a 1.25 earned-run average.
But Hisashi Iwakuma’s name wasn’t mentioned, even though the Mariners’ quiet right-hander was an All-Star last year and finished third in the Cy Young voting.
Iwakuma not getting mentioned shouldn’t be the case much longer.
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Iwakuma went out and put together yet another solid start, helping the Mariners to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
“Kuma was just outstanding,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “When it comes to pitching, it’s location, location, location. It has nothing to do with power. It has everything to do with location and throwing timing off and he does that very well.”
Iwakuma improved to 3-0, pitching eight strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. His ERA actually went up to 1.76 with the two runs allowed.
It was the first time in his career he’s gone eight innings in three consecutive starts.
Does he want to get a complete game?
“I’m not very obsessed with throwing nine innings,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I just go out there and do my part and I felt like I did my part.”
His part could be even better in the coming weeks. Iwakuma was making just his fourth start of the season after being shut down during spring training with a strained finger tendon. He’s still behind in comparison to most pitchers.
“You may not believe me if I say this, but I don’t think it was his best stuff by far today,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “I don’t think his command was where he wanted it today, but he did a great job of mixing all his pitches and keeping them off balance.”
Iwakuma had his streak of 17 scoreless innings snapped in the second when Adrian Beltre ripped a line-drive solo homer over the left-field wall to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“That pitch was middle-up; I’d like to get that pitch back,” Iwakuma said.
The Mariners helped him, scoring four runs off Rangers starter Colby Lewis in the third inning to take the lead for good.
Brad Miller looped a single into left field and James Jones delivered a perfect drag bunt down the first baseline for a single. Michael Saunders scored Miller with a single to center. The Rangers walked the hot-hitting Robinson Cano to load the bases. Lewis was able to strike out Justin Smoak, but Kyle Seager looped a little flare over the head of Beltre at third base. Jones and Saunders scored and Cano was able to go to third on the bloop hit, getting a good read on the play. That heads up baserunning was worth another run as Nick Franklin hit a sacrifice fly into left field to score Cano to make it 4-1.
“I was very happy to get some runs early and I was able to run with it,” Iwakuma said.
The Mariners continued to tack on runs. Cano smoked a run-scoring single in the fourth inning to push the lead to 5-1.
Texas scratched another run across on Iwakuma in the bottom of the fourth on a run-scoring single from Alex Rios to make it 5-2.
But that was it. Iwakuma allowed just two hits over the next four innings.
“It was just typical Kuma,” said Seager, who had three hits. “He just goes out there and does this every start. He’s just unbelievably consistent.”
The Mariners even gave Iwakuma another run for cushion, not that he needed it.
Dustin Ackley hit a low stinger of a line drive that rolled all way to the wall in left center, allowing Franklin to score from first.
McClendon had no intention of having Iwakuma pitch in the ninth.
“He ran out of gas again so we had to take him out,” McClendon said. “When you go back and analyze it, he lost his stuff in the seventh. Zunino said, ‘He’s probably lost it, Skip.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to see how he’s feeling and maybe he can give me one more.’ And he did.”
Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar, both of whom hadn’t pitched in a game in six days, got some work in the ninth inning to close it out.
The Mariners had 12 hits. Besides Seager’s three hits, Cano, Franklin and Ackley had two hits each.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish