The gaudy numbers keep mounting for Hisashi Iwakuma and Kendrys Morales.
First, Iwakuma. With 7 2/3 scoreless innings tonight in the Mariners’ 3-0 win against the Twins, his ERA dropped to 2.13. He dropped below Matt Moore of Tampa Bay into second-place in the American League, behind only the 1.73 of Boston’s Clay Buchholz. Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez are increasingly strong candidates to be teammates on the American League All-Star team.
What was most impressive tonight was his ability to work out of jams. Iwakuma said he actually had a poor warmup session in the bullpen, feeling like his balance was off, but he made an adjustment once the game started. His stuff appeared especially lively, and he worked out of first and third, one out in the third (with the help of a strong defensive play from Brendan Ryan and Jesus Sucre; second and third, two outs in the fifth; and first and third, two outs in the seventh.
“It was nice to see him get it right back,” Wedge said. “He was really good today. He had a live fastball. He had a life on it at the plate. I thought he pitched up well. He used his splittie down well. He dropped that breaking ball in on occasions. It was a nice lead pitch for him and at times he went to it later in counts. Just an all-around good ball game for Iwakuma.
“He was strong today. You could see by some of the swings that it was getting on them. He knows how to dig deep when he needs to. He understands the game. Great heartbeat, like we’ve talked about so much. He’s able to slow the game down when he needs to slow the game down. But when he gets on a roll, he gets in a nice tempo and we’ve seen a lot of that this year.”
Iwakuma is still looking for his first major-league complete game – he had 48 in Japan – but Wedge lifted him with two outs in the eighth, right after a strikeout of Josh Willingham. Charlie Furbush came in and struck out Justin Morneau on three pitches.
“We are still monitoring the finger and what not, and want to make sure we take care of that,’’ Wedge said. “I didn’t want him to face Morneau again. He wasn’t going to pitch the ninth inning, so if that’s the case, I’d rather bring in the lefty to against Morneau in that situation – try to keep him away from running into one.”
As for Morales, he’s hit safely in 18 of his last 20 games, batting .361 (30-for-83) in that span, with nine doubles, five homers and 20 runs batted in. He said he is settling into his new team after being traded from the Angels in December. Morales’ two-run homer in the sixth broke a scoreless tie and was the biggest hit in the game.
“I’m getting real comfortable with these guys, and it looks like everyone is getting on a roll right now, and hopefully we keep it up,’’ Morales said, with reliever Danny Farquhar — a fluent speaker of Spanish — doing the translating.
Said Wedge: “Kendrys does a great job of giving himself on every pitch and eventually he’s going to get you. When he hit that, I didn’t think it was going to go. But Robby (Thompson, the bench coach) did. It just kept going. He backspinned it and it just kept going and going. Like so many times, he’s the one who got us going today.”