SEATTLE (AP) — Hisashi Iwakuma became the second Japanese-born pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
The right-hander struck out seven and walked three in the fourth no-hitter this season and first by an American League pitcher in nearly three years. Hideo Nomo threw big league two no-nos after starting his career in his home country of Japan.
“I was aware of it obviously, but I felt it real deep in my heart in the ninth inning,” Iwakuma said through a translator. “Just focusing on one hitter at a time and I’m glad I got it done.”
Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels — prior to his trade to Texas — Washington’s Max Scherzer and San Francisco’s Chris Heston all tossed no-hitters this season.
Third baseman Kyle Seager made a nifty, twisting over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory to start the ninth, but the 34-year-old Iwakuma needed little help in completing his first career complete game and the Mariners’ fifth no-hitter.
Teammate Felix Hernandez’s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Aug. 15, 2012, was the last time an AL pitcher did not allow a hit in a game. There have been 15 no-hitters by NL pitchers since then.
With Mariners fans on their feet and cheering, Iwakuma got Gerardo Parra to line out softly to center fielder Austin Jackson for the first no-hitter against Baltimore since Boston’s Clay Buchholz did it in 2007. Baltimore has been no-hit seven times.
After his 116th pitch settled in Jackson’s glove, Iwakuma was mobbed by his teammates. Hernandez was wearing a fuzzy bear hat that was handed out as a promotion earlier in the season to honor Iwakuma.
The only time it appeared the Orioles might get a hit came in the fourth inning. Manny Machado walked to lead off and Parra chopped a grounder in the hole between first baseman Mark Trumbo and second baseman Robinson Cano. Quickly moving to his left, Cano tracked down the grounder in shallow right field and threw across his body to get Parra at first.
Iwakuma walked Chris Davis with two outs, but he struck out Jimmy Paredes to end the threat.
Iwakuma also walked Jonathan Schoop on a check-swing, full-count pitch to open the eighth inning. But after striking out Ryan Flaherty looking, Iwakuma got Caleb Joseph to ground into a double play.
Iwakuma took the mound for the ninth to a standing ovation from the home crowd taking in the rare weekday matinee.
David Lough fouled out to open the ninth with Seager making his remarkable catch. Machado grounded out to Seager for the second out and Parra flew out to shallow center field to end it. Iwakuma pitched 8 2-3 innings twice, including earlier this month against Minnesota.
Iwakuma has been a solid arm in Seattle’s rotation since arriving from Japan in 2012, but has struggled with injuries throughout his career.
He missed 2 ½ months early in the season after straining a muscle in his back and side. He’s been solid since returning, pitching at least seven innings in four of seven starts since coming off the disabled list.
In his last outing, Iwakuma threw a career-high 118 pitches in a victory over Texas.
Iwakuma didn’t get a ton of offensive help but it wasn’t needed. Franklin Gutierrez had an RBI double and Cano followed with an RBI single, both with two outs, to give Seattle a 2-0 lead in the third off Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman (2-4).
Jackson led off the fourth with a double and scored on Jesus Sucre’s RBI double, again with two outs. It was just the fifth hit of the season for Sucre, Seattle’s backup catcher.