Seattle starter follows his no-hitter by limiting Texas to two runs and five hits over seven innings.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The odds were against Hisashi Iwakuma.
A no-hitter in back-to-back starts — accomplished only by Johnny Vander Meer in June of 1938 — is a baseball achievement unlikely to be matched, much like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Cal Ripken’s record of 2,632 consecutive games played.
Iwakuma wasn’t able to replicate his no-hit performance against the Orioles on Tuesday in Texas. But he was good enough to lead the Mariners to a 3-2 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
Mariners @ Rangers, 11:05 a.m., ROOT Sports
Iwakuma worked seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts to improve to 5-2 on the season. It was also the 150th win of Iwakuma’s career in two countries’ top leagues — 43 with the Mariners and 107 in the Japanese Pacific League as part of Nippon Professional Baseball.
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“I hope to be still be here when he reaches 200,” manager Lloyd McClendon said with a chuckle.
Since Iwakuma returned from the disabled list, he has looked closer to his All-Star form of 2013. And it’s a reason why the Mariners have been considering signing him to a contract extension. In his last nine starts, he’s 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 10 walks.
“I feel happy,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I’m proud of what I’ve been doing in my last couple starts and just helping the team. As a starter, you want to go as long as you can. I think I’ve been able to do that with quality starts.”
With the temperature at 96 degrees and Iwakuma having thrown over 115 pitches in his previous two outings, there was a possibility that his day would be shortened. But he reached 99 pitches after seven innings.
“I thought Kuma was outstanding,” McClendon said. “He made the pitches he needed to make. He hit his spots. Our defense played good behind him.”
Iwakuma’s no-hit bid ended quickly. With one out in the first inning, Shin Soo-Choo pulled a line drive into right field for a single.
“It was a splitter down and he put a good swing on it,” Iwakuma said.
It wasn’t a major disappointment because he had not allowed himself to think that way. Was it a relief?
“It’s hard to say, maybe I was relieved because if I had gone a little further, it could have caused a different kind of burden, but it’s hard to say,” he said.
It also provided some relief that his teammates gave him immediate run support before he took the mound.
Seattle scored all three of its runs against Rangers starter Chi Chi Gonzalez in the first inning. With one out, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz came up with back-to-back doubles to produce a run. And with Cruz standing on second, Seth Smith ripped his 10th homer of the season — a two-run shot into the Rangers’ bullpen in right-center — to make it 3-0.
That was support enough for Iwakuma.
His streak of 13 scoreless innings ended in the second when Rougned Odor hammered a 2-0 fastball over the wall in right-center for his ninth homer of the season. But Iwakuma settled in from there. He didn’t have great velocity, still feeling the effects of the heavy workload, but he had above-average command and used his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance.
“I felt all right,” he said. “I tried to keep the ball down in the zone and get early contact. I was able to do that.”
He retired 12 batters in a row from the second to the sixth inning and didn’t allow a second run until the seventh, when a one-out single from Odor with Elvis Andrus on first base started the problems. Andrus went from first to third on the play and later scored on Bobby Wilson’s sac fly to center. But the Mariners were able to guess right on a pitchout as Jesus Sucre threw out Odor on a stolen-base attempt at second. It ended the inning and Iwakuma’s outing.
“It’s a frustrating at-bat against him,” said Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. “He throws however many pitches he throws. And then it’s in every spot. He goes up and down, in and out, down and away, up and away. He’s all over the place with everything, but everything is right on the edge of the zone.”
After giving Iwakuma the early lead, the Mariners’ offense provided no more support. Gonzalez settled in and worked six innings, allowing just the early three runs.
With a one-run lead, McClendon turned it over to his bullpen. Danny Farquhar worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Carson Smith retired the side in order in the ninth inning to notch his 13th save.