It’s tough to get much attention when AL ERA leader Felix Hernandez is your teammate, but Hisashi Iwakuma is quietly emerging as a formidable sidekick at the top of the Mariners’ rotation.
Iwakuma gave up two runs over seven innings last night in a 6-3 win over the Athletics. The 32-year-old struck out nine and walked none while retiring 16 batters in a row at one point. Brooks Baseball notes that he had 12 swings and misses, including five on his splitter, which has emerged as a legitimate weapon during his brief time in the majors.
Just to give you a sense of how good Iwakuma has been this season, his ERA actually went up from 1.61 to 1.74 with last night’s start. Still, he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his eight starts this season and owns a stingy 51/8 K/BB ratio over 51 2/3 innings. His 0.74 WHIP is the best in the American League. And to think, he has pitched most of the season with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand.
Iwakuma’s dominance actually dates back to last season, as he has a 2.33 ERA in 24 starts since moving to the rotation last July. Only Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey, and Kris Medlen have a lower ERA in the same timespan. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to maintain his .198 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and 84.4 percent strand rate, so some regression should be expected, but the Mariners’ decision to keep him around on a two-year, $14 million deal looks pretty smart right now.
Because of course he did.
It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt. The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.
Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.
The other night, Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit needed help getting off the field after the second benches-clearing incident with the Yankees. It was later revealed that Benoit tore a calf muscle during the fracas, ending his season.
Yesterday he pointed the finger at just about everyone else for the incidents like the one that led to his injury. Hitters specifically. From The Star:
“I believe as pitchers we’re entitled to use the whole plate and pitch in if that’s the way we’re going to succeed,” Benoit said. “I believe that right now baseball is taking things so far that in some situations most hitters believe that they can’t be brushed out. Some teams take it personally.”
That “take it personally” line is interesting coming from Benoit as, in this instance, it seemed pretty clear that the whole plunking exchange which led to his injury started because Josh Donaldson took an inside pitch that did not seem to be a purpose pitch at all, too personally.
Did Benoit take a veiled swipe at his teammate here? If so, that’s pretty notable. If not it’s notable in another way, right? As it suggests that Benoit believes it’s OK for his teammates to take issue with inside pitches but anyone else who does is part of the problem?
Which is it, Joaquin?