The right-hander walks three and strikes out seven in a 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.
Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma started to feel it when Kyle Seager made a running catch in foul territory down the line, when the third baseman hustled toward the stands and doubled back to acrobatically record the first out of the ninth inning.
Iwakuma had never thrown a no-hitter; he said he’d never even taken one past the fifth inning. Yet here he was, two outs away. The 25,661 at Safeco Field were on their feet, cheers reverberating off the bottom of the closed roof.
An inkling of doubt crept back into Iwakuma’s mind when Orioles hitter Gerardo Parra laced a pitch toward the left-center-field gap, but the Mariners’ Austin Jackson got an immediate read on the ball and caught it for the final out. The celebration began before the ball reached his glove.
Iwakuma’s no-hitter by the numbers
116 Pitches thrown, 77 for strikes
4 Of the past five American League no-hitters, four have taken place at Safeco Field, the past three by Mariners pitchers
Iwakuma threw the fifth no-hitter in Mariners history Wednesday, walking three and striking out seven Orioles as Seattle won the series with a 3-0 victory.
“When I was young, when I first signed, I said to myself, ‘One day it would be nice to throw a no-hitter,’ ” Iwakuma said in Japanese through a translator. “Today I’m very happy I accomplished it, but it was just taking one hitter at a time that got this to become true.”
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was more crass: “I’m just glad it’s over with,” he joked, “because I had to pee since the fifth inning.”
That’s also when McClendon began to sense something special in the summer air. Iwakuma might not have sensed that it could be a historic day until the top of the ninth, but the whispers around the ballpark began far earlier.
“I thought his stuff was really sharp,” McClendon said. “His (split-fingered fastball) was coming out very crisp. You never know, but I said, ‘He may have a shot.’ He was going pretty good, and as it went along, you realized that this could happen.”
Iwakuma walked a pair of Baltimore batters in the fourth inning but struck out Jimmy Paredes to strand them both. Iwakuma settled in from there, retiring 10 consecutive batters in one stretch.
His splitter was dancing, but so were his curveball and slider.
When I was young, when I first signed, I said to myself, ‘One day it would be nice to throw a no-hitter,’” - Hisashi Iwakuma
By the seventh, the fans were sitting up a little bit straighter in their green-backed chairs. Fans nudged their neighbors, gesturing toward the manual scoreboard tucked inside the left-field foul pole and the string of zeroes in Baltimore’s line.
“From seventh inning, every pitch I called I was nervous,” Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre said. “I think he was too happy. Every time he threw a strike, he was happy. You could see it in his face, he was laughing. Every time he finished an inning, he was so happy.”
In the eighth Iwakuma walked leadoff hitter Jonathan Schoop and edged past 100 pitches when he fooled Ryan Flaherty with a splitter to even the count at 1-1. He struck out Flaherty but fell behind 3-1 against Caleb Joseph.
The crowd started to tense, and Sucre glanced at the home dugout for help. McClendon just shook his head, he relayed later: “I can’t help you.”
Said Sucre: “3-1, big-league hitters, they don’t miss. … In my mind I wanted to go fastball away, because I know that guy is kind of a pull hitter. He was throwing the ball good down there, outside. I called a pitch, but I’m not going to lie, I was kind of nervous.”
Joseph pushed a ground ball at shortstop Ketel Marte, who flipped it to second baseman Robinson Cano for a particularly nonchalant turn. 6-4-3 double play — three outs to go.
Baltimore’s No. 9 hitter, David Lough, led off the ninth, popping a 2-2 pitch toward the stands down the left-field line. Seager knew he had a chance at it, backtracking at a full sprint.
“Originally, I didn’t think it was going to be as close to the wall as it was,” Seager said. “I thought it was going to be more kind of running backwards. It started to go more toward the stands, and I thought it was going to end up in the stands a little bit. It came back there at the end.
“That’s the scenario where you’re not stopping. You’re going to do everything you can to catch that.”
That was the one, the clubhouse consensus said later, the play when they knew Iwakuma was going to do it.
It was been a rough year for the Tokyo native — a rough two years, actually, a series of injuries robbing him of the stuff he’d flashed during a sparkling 2013.
Iwakuma was two outs from becoming the second Japanese-born pitcher, after Hideo Nomo, to throw a major-league no-hitter, then just one. He had family in the stands, his father-in-law and mother-in-law.
But he wasn’t thinking of any of that when Parra laced the first pitch of his at-bat — just a momentary jolt of fear, then elation.
“To be honest, when he first hit that ball, I thought that ball was going to drop for a base hit,” Iwakuma said. “I was like, ‘Uh oh.’
“Right when I saw Jackson showed his glove up in the air, I was like, ‘Yes!’ ”
|This was the fifth no-hitter in Mariners franchise history, and first since Felix Hernandez’s perfect game:|
|Aug. 15, 2012||Rays||Felix Hernandez|
|June 8, 2012||Dodgers||Combined: Kevin Millwood and five others|
|April 22, 1993||Red Sox||Chris Bosio|
|June 2, 1990||Tigers||Randy Johnson|