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Hisashi Iwakuma underwent shoulder surgery

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Mariners’ right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma has undergone arthroscopic shoulder debridement surgery, the club announced Friday. The procedure was performed on Wednesday and is expected to sideline the starter through the next five months, at which point he’s expected to start throwing off the mound again. He hasn’t appeared in a big league game since May, when he was initially diagnosed with a bout of right shoulder inflammation.

Needless to say, this isn’t how Iwakuma envisioned his return to Seattle when he signed a one-year, $12 million contract with the Mariners in 2015. He produced a career-best 16 wins and 4.12 ERA with the club in 2016, but his 2017 season was derailed in just six starts after he compiled a 4.35 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 4.6 SO/9 over 31 innings. He’s scheduled to hit free agency this fall and is likely looking at a minor league deal somewhere, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.

While Iwakuma’s major league future is still up in the air, the 36-year-old hurler said he wants to return in 2018 to “give back to everyone.” Hopefully, he’ll still have a platform to do that.

I underwent shoulder cleaning surgery. The surgery was operated successfully so I’m relieved! I’ll do my best to rehabilitate for the return of new season. The surgery was done in one day so my family came to support me and my wife became a private nurse! (^_^) At the time of surgery, I’m truly thankful to the Seattle Mariners, its team of trainers, Tony of the Mariners’ interpreter, and my agents for the great support. I would like to give back to everyone by pitching on the mound next season. Thank you very much for your continuous support to all the fans! I’ll do my best to come back! (*^^*) . 肩のクリーニング手術をしました。 無事に終わり、安心しました! 来シーズンの復帰に向けてリハビリしっかり頑張ります。 アメリカは日帰り手術なので、家族もサポートしに同行してくれて、嫁さんが専属看護師になってくれています(^_^) 手術に際して、マリナーズやマリナーズのトレーナー陣はじめ、マリナーズの通訳のトニーさん、エージェントにもお世話になり、感謝しています! 来シーズン、メジャーのマウンドに立つ事で皆さんに恩返ししたいと思います。 ファンの皆さんもいつも激励をありがとうございます! 頑張ります(*^^*)

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The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.