It wasn’t much of a homecoming for Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma when he started Friday for a major league touring team against Japan’s national team at the Tokyo Dome.
He gave up five runs and 10 hits in just four innings in an 8-4 loss that put the MLB team in a 0-2 hole in the five-game series. Robinson Cano went 1-for-4 with an RBI as the designated hitter in the loss.
Iwakuma refused to let the poor performance affect him.
“I just wanted to have fun, and (I) did,” he told MLB.com. “It was a special game for me. It’s an honor to pitch here in Japan. I’m away from Seattle, but I’m in front of my own fans.”
Iwakuma, 33, spent 11 seasons pitching for Kintetsu and Rakuten in his native country before signing with the Mariners prior to the 2012 season. He was 15-9 this season with a 3.52 ERA in 28 starts.
The series continues Saturday and Sunday at the Tokyo Dome before concluding Tuesday in Sapporo. The teams will also play an exhibition game on Thursday on Okinawa.
Iwakuma isn’t scheduled to pitch again.
It was lost, perhaps, amid the unanimous selection Thursday of Angels outfielder Mike Trout as the American League’s Most Valuable Player — but Cano’s fifth-place finish was the best by a Mariner in 13 years.
Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, then a rookie, was picked as the AL’s MVP in 2001, and second baseman Bret Boone finished third in the balloting.
Pitcher Felix Hernandez and third baseman Kyle Seager also received votes this year from the Baseball Writers’ Association’s 30-member panel. Hernandez finished 10th, and Seager finished 20th.
The last time three Mariners received votes was also 2001 — when five players drew support. Outfielder Mike Cameron and designated hitter Edgar Martinez tied for 16th, and reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki finished tied for 19th.
Worth noting: Hernandez finished just ahead of Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, the Cy Young Award winner, in the MVP balloting. Hernandez had 48 points; Kluber had 45. It was a different BBWAA panel.
WORLD’S NO. 1 STARTER
This won’t help the grumbling among some Mariners fans in the aftermath of Hernandez losing out to Kluber for the Cy Young Award.
Sabermetric grand master Bill James has a stat that seeks to identify the “World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher.” The overall winner through 2014, before and after postseason, is Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
That's no surprise.
Kershaw was a unanimous choice as the National League’s Cy Young winner in balloting by a panel consisting of 30 Baseball Writers’ Association of America members. He has won the award in three of the past four years.
James’ formula also identifies Hernandez as the American League’s top pitcher. In fact, Kluber isn’t listed among the AL’s top five pitchers or among the top 10 overall.
That’s hugely deceptive in one key sense.
James' computation is a stat based on career achievement, which unquestionably hurts Kluber’s chances — 2014 was his first full season in the big leagues.
Even so, Mariners fans aren’t likely to be mollified in their belief that King Felix stands above all others in the American League.
The rest of the AL’s top five in James' rankings: Detroit’s Max Scherzer and David Price, Chicago’s Chris Sale and Oakland’s Jon Lester. James’ full rankings are available in the just-released, “2015 Bill James Handbook.”
Hernandez was No. 2 overall to Kershaw through the end of the regular season. Hernandez drops to third, behind San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner when postseason work is included.
Bumgarner jumped eight spots because of his postseason heroics.
FALL LEAGUE NUMBERS
The final numbers are in for the Mariners’ prospects who played for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL season concludes Saturday when Peoria plays Salt Rivers in the title game.
MORE WINTER NUMBERS
Sucre, 26, batted .213 for the Mariners in 21 games following his July 8 recall from Triple-A Tacoma, where he batted .274 in 48 games. The Mariners were 11-7 in Sucre’s 18 starts.
Rivero, 26, is batting .308 (24-for-78) in 21 games for Lara with six homers and 17 RBIs. His six homers are tied for the league lead.
Choi, 23, is batting .220 (11-for-50) in 14 games at Aragua with one homer and seven RBIs. He does have eight walks, which boosts his on-base percentage to .328.