Every no-hitter seems to require a web gem on defense, and Hisashi Iwakuma’s masterpiece was no different Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma entered the ninth inning with the Mariners holding a 3-0 lead when Baltimore’s David Lough lifted a pop foul toward the outfield end of the Orioles’ dugout along the third-base line.
Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager raced over and … well, let him explain.
“I thought it was going to stay in,” Seager said. “As I got going, I thought it was going to go into the stands. It kind of came back at the last little bit. In that situation, you’re not letting it get down if you can help it.”
Seager won a Gold Glove last season for defensive excellence; so who better to be able to help it? He made a spectacular over-the-shoulder basket catch near the wall for the inning’s first out.
Had Seager not made the catch, it wouldn’t have wrecked the no-hitter. It was a foul ball. But a whiff would have extended Iwakuma, who was already at 112 pitches.
As it was, Iwakuma cited Seager’s “spectacular play” as the moment he allowed himself to start thinking about a no-hitter.
Iwakuma then retired Manny Machado on a routine grounder to Seager before Gerardo Parra lofted a fly into left-center field that center fielder Austin Jackson ran down for the final out.
Seager shrugged off his play while pointing to Iwakuma’s performance.
“He was phenomenal,” Seager said. “He was so good that I’m answering these questions about a foul ball. That’s how good he was today.”
Iwakuma had never pitched a complete game in 87 previous big-league starts before his no-hitter. He had never carried a no-hitter past 41/3 innings.
“When I was young,” Iwakuma recalled, “when I signed, I said, ‘One day, it would be nice to throw a no-hitter.’ Today, I’m very happy to accomplish it. But it was just taking one hitter at a time that made this come true.”
Wednesday’s gem was the clearest evidence yet that Iwakuma is back in top form after missing 11 weeks while recovering from a strained back muscle. He is 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA in eight starts since returning to duty.
“I missed a lot of time in the first half of the season,” he said. “Two-and-a-half months. I couldn’t help my team at all. That’s all I had in mind, to come back and give it all I’ve got in every start I have to make up for lost time.”