Remember when a no-hitter used to be a rarity in baseball? No mas! Yesterday, Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners tossed one against the Baltimore Orioles up at Safeco Field. It was the fourth no-hitter of the year (with 8 weeks still to go!) and the ninth in the last two years. That has been a lot of free pizza of late and it emphasizes the fact that pitchers are dominating the game again (more on this in my next blog).
What is interesting about Iwakuma’s no-no is that he was making just his 11th start of the season. He was on the disabled list from April 24 through July 6 with a right lat strain. In his last start, on August 7 versus Texas, he gave up three earned runs in seven innings. Iwakuma did have to labor for the no-no…he threw 116 pitches, walking three and striking out seven.
Iwakuma became the second Japanese pitchers to throw a no-hitter since MLB began allowing players from Japan to sign contracts. Hideo Nomo pitched a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox on April 4, 2001 against…who else? The Baltimore Orioles! In fact, the O’s have been no-hit five times.
A streak, of sorts, was broken by Iwakuma. Prior to yesterday, the last 12 no-hitters thrown in the majors have been in the National League. The last American League no-hitter was thrown by Iwakuma’s teammate, “King” Felix Hernandez, who accomplished the feat on August 15, 2012.
Originally signed by Seattle on January 5, 2012, Iwakuma made his MLB debut on April 20. He was then re-signed during the 2012 off-season and will become a free agent at the end of this season. In fact, Iwakuma was the subject of many trade talks before the July 31 deadline.
A 34-year-old right hander, Iwakuma went 14-6 in 2013 and followed that up with a 15-9 record last year. With a no-hitter now under his belt, Iwakuma will probably command a long-term, multi-million contract for a team looking for a solid #2 or #3 starter.
More facts: This was the fifth no-hitter in Seattle Mariners’ history. Besides the one tossed by Hernandez, Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson threw one against Detroit in 1990 and Chris Bosio accomplished the feat in 1993, against Boston. Seattle also has one “combined” no-hitter when six pitchers combined for a 1-0 no-hit win over the Dodgers in June of 2012.
This was Iwakuma’s first complete game in the majors and his first major league shutout. He is projected to go only 3-3 the rest of the way. Iwakuma’s projected seven wins would be the fewest win total for a season since he began, in 2012 (when he won nine games).
The last time the Birds were no-hit, before yesterday, was September 1, 2007, by Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox.