Report: Hisashi Iwakuma leaning toward signing with Mariners

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According to a Sponichi report, Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is leaning toward signing with the Mariners. The story was passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and the following translated quote from Iwakuma was published on MLB Trade Rumors.

“We’ve received terms from a number of clubs, but considering where I’m needed and an environment my family can live in, at present we’re closest to a contract with the Mariners,” Iwakuma said.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reported yesterday that the Orioles are also interested in Iwakuma. Per a previous report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, it’s believed that another American League team could be in the mix.

The Athletics won exclusive negotiating rights with Iwakuma last offseason by submitting a $19.1 million posting fee, but the two sides failed to agree on a contract. For what it’s worth, it was reported that the Mariners did not submit a bid for him last year. However, they are very much interested now that he’s available as a free agent.

Iwakuma, who turns 31 in April, posted a 2.42 ERA and 90/19 K/BB ratio in 119 innings this past year for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League. He has a 3.25 ERA during his 11-year career.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.