Hasashi Iwakuma is greeted by teammate Munenori Kawasaki after pitching the sixth inning tonight at Safeco Field. Photo by Associated Press.
On a night when Hector Noesi turned in his second ineffectual start out of three, most of the post-game praise was reserved for the bullpen work of Erasmo Ramirez and the elusive Hasashi Iwakuma, who finally made his major-league debut. The two combined for 7 2/3 innings of strong relief, giving up just two hits (one each) and one run (on Adam Dunn’s second homer of the game, off Iwakuma in the eighth).
Of Noesi, manager Eric Wedge said: “He was completely different today (from last outing,in which he worked eight shutout innings against Oakland. He wasn’t able to locate his fastball, and his secondary stuff didn’t really come into play. He just didn’t have it today. We had to give him every opportunity to get going, because you never want to go to the pen that early. It makes for a long night and potentially makes for a long week. Obviously, Ramirez and Iwakuma picked us up and really saved us.”
Wedge said he didn’t bring in Iwakuma initially because Noesi had to be pulled in the middle of an inning. He entered the game to start the sixth and worked the final four.
“His first time, I wanted to make sure we started him with a clean inning,” he said. “I was waiting for an opportunity like today, or preferably the flip side of that scenario, when you have a big lead. He pitched four innings and saved our pen. It can affect you for a long time when you have to go to the pen in the second inning.”
I asked Wedge if Iwakuma might now see more frequent action in less lopsided scenarios.
“You have to have someone down there that does that,” he said. “That’s the long and short of it. You can’t leave yourself short. He was very impressive today. He did a great job. Ramirez was much better as well after a couple of tough outings. You have to use all your guys, and a day like today is why you have to have some length down there.”
Speaking of using all your guys, Casper Wells took full advantage of a rare start. It was his third, all coming against left-handed starters — of which the Mariners face two more in the next four days. Wells boomed two doubles, one off the wall in right, the other one-hopping the wall in left-center.
“When you get sparing playing time, the trap you can fall into is thinking too much, trying to make too much of the situation,” Wells said. “I tried to be relaxed and trust my ability. I got a couple of pitches to hit. It felt good. It felt really good.”
Iwakuma also felt good to finally get into a major-league game.
“It was a long time to pitch finally, but I was prepared when he called,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “I’m glad to debate here at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma said the long wait to pitch didn’t frustrate him, because he was able to work on things in the bullpen. But giving up the homer to Adam Dunn did.
“If I didn’t give up the homer, we had a (better) chance to win,” he said. “I made a mistake.”