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March 10, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Iwakuma much better in this outing as Mariners and Dodgers play to a 5-5 draw

The Mariners erupted for a four-run sixth inning, but could not hold on late and played to a 5-5 tie today with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The visitors scored three in the eighth off Jeff Marquez, a right-hander who doesn’t figure to be part of the Opening Day team, to come away with the draw. As before, the results of these games don’t matter as much as what happens within them and the story today was the four-inning performance turned in by Hisashi Iwakuma.
It was far from perfect, but also much better than his prior stat in which he lasted a lone 35-pitch inning.
This time, Iwakuma had some help from his fielders — unlike that prior game — and also some luck when a single hit the baserunner and ended an inning that could have become a serious problem.
But overall, he did a better job of commanding his fastball. And when he needed it, his split-fingered fastball was there as you can see in the photo above, when he strikes out Matt Treanor on his final pitch of the contest.
“I felt much better than last time,” he said, through his interpreter, on the right in the photo above. “And the number of pitches decreased with each inning. So, I’m really glad to pitch better than I did last time.”

Iwakuma tried to think about controlling game situations and not letting innings get out of hand. He did that for the most part, running into some trouble in the third inning before the hit baserunner got him out of it.
But up to then, he’d retired his first seven batters of the game.
He got some help from Casper Wells in left field on a strong throw back in that forced James Loney to retreat to third base after he’d thought about heading home from second on the hit. The decision to turn back wound up getting Loney caught in a rundown when the runner behind him didn’t stop at second and headed to third as well.
It wasn’t all good luck for Iwakuma. He had one of his split-finger strikeout pitches get by Miguel Olivo for a wild-pitch that let a runner on who eventually scored. But overall, as I said, a better outing. His velocity was up — one radar gun showed him maxing out at 91 mph, which is where he was in the regular season last year in Japan. And he got through multiple innings this time.
Iwakuma said he wasn’t as focused on his mechanics this time. They have been a concern because of prior arm troubles, but this time, he was more concerned with the quality of where his pitches were going — not on the windup he used to get them there.
“I didn’t think anything about the shoulder or where my elbow was,” he said. “I just tried to have good location.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge agreed it was a much better day for the pitcher. A big thing was that the ball looked better coming out of Iwakuma’s hand.
“He had more life, really, with all of his pitches,” Wedge said. “He did a good job with his fastball and moving it around. His secondary stuff was crisp and he was effective.”
Kyle Seager had a big day with a solo homer to center field to get Seattle’s comeback started from 2-0 down.
“He’s definitely stronger,” Wedge said. “He barrels up the ball very well for a young man but he’s driving it better this spring.”
Seager also drove in Ichiro with an RBI single during a four-run Seattle sixth inning. Justin Smoak added a sacrifice fly that frame after Ichiro had doubled home the tying run. Another run scored when an Olivo grounder was misplayed for an error.
Besides his strong throw, Wells also had two singles on a needed 2-for-4 day after a slow start at the plate this spring.
“We’re seeing some good things,” Wedge said of the offense in general.
Dustin Ackley had a triple, but was thrown out at home after Ichiro grounded a ball right at the first baseman. Ichiro was picked off base moments later, so, you can bet he was pleased to make up for some of it with his double and run scored later on.

Comments | Topics: Hisashi Iwakuma


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