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May 20, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Mariners 6, Rangers 2 — Iwakuma improves to 3-0 with another solid outing

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So Hisashi Iwakuma is pretty good. And he will get better.

Iwakuma improved to 3-0 on the season, pitching eight strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. His ERA actually went up with the two runs allowed to 1.76.

“Kuma was just outstanding,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “When it comes to pitching, it’s location, location, location. It has nothing to do with power. It has everything to do with location and throwing timing off and he does that very well.”

McClendon had no intention of letting Iwakuma going to the ninth.

“He ran out of gas again so we had to take him out,” McClendon said. “When you go back and analyze it, he lost his stuff in the seventh. Zunino said, ‘he’s probably lost it, skip.’ I said, ‘ well, I’m going to see how he’s feeling and maybe he can give me one more. And he did.”

It was the first time in his career that he’s gone eight innings in three straight starts.

Does he want to get a complete game?

“I’m not very obsessed with throwing nine innings,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I just go out there and do my part and I felt like I did my part.”

His part could be even better in the coming weeks. Iwakuma was making just his fourth start of the season after being shutdown during spring training with a strained finger tendon.  He’s still behind in comparison to most pitchers. The more he builds and throws, the better his command and endurance will get.

“You may not believe me if I say this, but I don’t think it was his best stuff by far today,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “I don’t think his command was where he wanted it today, but he did a great job of mixing all his pitches and keeping them off balance.”

Iwakuma had his streak of 17 scoreless innings snapped in the second inning when Adrian Beltre ripped a line drive solo homer over the left field wall to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

“That pitch was middle-up, I’d like to get that pitch back,” Iwakuma said.

Iwakuma issued a lead-off walk to Elvis Andrus in the fourth inning. It snapped a streak of 21 1/3 innings without a walk. It was just the second time he walked a hitter to start an inning this season and the 12th time in the last 250-plus innings pitched.

McClendon also mentioned that Iwakum’s fastball isn’t quite there yet. He averaged 89 mph tonight with it. But it was 86-87 to start.

From Baseball by Brooks …

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According to Fangraphs, Iwakuma’s fastball averaged 89.5 mph. This year it’s been 88.2. But with a few more starts and his throwing program will help it have a little more life. It’s not that it needs to be faster. But a tick or two will only make him more effective, particularly when he elevates it out of the strike zone.

The Mariners had 12 hits – 11 singles and one double. They got some luck with some bloops that went their way. Seager dumped a two-run bloop over Adrian Beltre’s head at third base to score two runs in the Mariners’ four-run third inning.

“I didn’t realize he was going to get as close to it as he did,” Seager said. “I thought I hit it better than that and it was going to bloop in there pretty easily. He made a really, really nice play on the first one. So I figured I can’t go in front of him, I better bloop it over him.”

That play was when Seager tried to bunt to third to circumvent the shift. Beltre made a Beltre play – bare hand and missile throw – and getting Seager by a step.

“With no outs, I was just trying to get it going,” he said of the decision to bunt.  “I saw it and I would have liked to put the ball in a better place, but it was a pretty good bunt. He made a phenomenal play. There’s nobody that can make that play. That was unbelievable going as far across his body as he did. I had to come up (to the clubhouse) and watch it again. I was running and I get thrown out and I was thinking in the world that happened. I don’t think any other third baseman in the big leagues would even try to throw it.”




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