By Gary Hill
The Mariners were desperate for a quality start, and Hisashi Iwakuma gave it to them on Sunday.
During their now extinct eight-game losing streak, the starters for Seattle posted an ERA above 9.00. After yielding a homer to the very first batter he saw, Iwakuma settled in to pitch a gem against the powerful Rangers. He faced the minimum in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. He yielded just two runs on five hits while fanning eight and walking zero.
His tremendous outing set up the heroics from Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay later in the game, which propelled the M's to victory.
Iwakuma has now lowered his ERA to 2.35, which is third best in the American League. He has the best WHIP in the AL (0.84). In over 72 innings of work he has only allowed 50 hits and 11 walks. Former Mariner Mark Lowe has also walked 11 batters this year; the difference is that he has done it in just over 11 innings pitched.
Iwakuma is only issuing a free pass 1.4 times for every nine innings pitched. The elite rate has only been maintained by qualified starters less than 200 times in the history of baseball. Greg Maddux accomplished the feat 15 times during his remarkable career.
Iwakuma has started 27 games in his two-year career and has posted a 13-5 record with a 2.52 ERA strictly as a starter. He is 8-3 with a 2.13 ERA in his career at Safeco Field.