SEATTLE — Hisashi Iwakuma has no trouble recalling his reaction to his last pitch the last time he faced the Baltimore Orioles. Gerardo Parra hit a fly ball to center fielder Austin Jackson in a 3-0 victory at Safeco Field.
It was the final out for Iwakuma in a no-hitter.
"It’s hard to remember what I was thinking that inning," he said, "but when (Jackson) finally caught, it, I said, `Yes! I did it!’"
That was Aug. 12, nearly 11 months ago, on a glorious Pacific Northwest afternoon in the final game of a series. He had seven strikeouts and three walks that day in a 116-pitch outing.
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It was the first shutout and first nine-inning complete game of his career.
On Sunday, Iwakuma will again face the Orioles in an afternoon series finale at Safeco Field. He enters the game at 7-6 with a 4.34 ERA, but he is 6-2 in his last eight outings with five quality starts.
"That (no-hit) game, when you look back, was a special game," Iwakuma said. "It was a significant game in my career in my career. But that’s the past, and (Sunday) is a different ballgame. That’s how I look at it now."
Five of 11 Mariners who played in the no-hitter, including Jackson, are no longer with the club. Their starting first baseman that day was Mark Trumbo, who now plays for the Orioles. Parra is now in Colorado.
Scott Servais is, like most managers, generally cautious in assessing players as they work their way back from injuries. That wasn’t the case Saturday when he offered a day-after assessment of Felix Hernandez’s 43-pitch bullpen workout.
"It was outstanding," Servais said. "It was as good as I’ve seen him throw the ball at any point this year, including spring training. It was that crisp and clean."
Hernandez hasn’t pitched since May 27 because of a strained right calf but is on track for a July 20 return to the rotation. Plans call for him to throw a simulated game this week in Houston before making two minor-league rehab starts.
Tentative projections call for Hernandez to pitch July 10 for Short-A Everett against Spokane (Rangers) at Everett Memorial Stadium, and July 15 for Triple-A Tacoma against Colorado Springs (Brewers) at Cheney Stadium.
Hernandez was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA through 10 starts prior to his injury.
The Mariners also held a 1 1/2-game lead atop the American League West Division after Hernandez’s last start. They entered Saturday in third place and trailing first-place Texas by 10 1/2 games.
SPOTLIGHT ON ZUNINO
Catcher Mike Zunino made his first start Saturday since Aug. 27, 2015 and is in line to start again Monday in Houston. He was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Tacoma to replace injured Steve Clevenger as the backup to Chris Iannetta.
"I do think it will really help Mike to have Chris here with him," Servais said. "And also the fact that Zunino does not have to be the guy.
"It’s much different when you’re struggling and feel you have the weight of the world because you know you have to play every day. You don’t. We’ve got options."
Whether Zunino gets an extended tour as Iannetta’s backup could hinge on his play over the next week before the four-day break for the All-Star break. Servais acknowledged a desire to reduce Iannetta’s workload.
That could mean regular duty for Zunino, but Servais cautioned: "He’s got to earn it." The Mariners also have a veteran alternative at Tacoma in Rob Brantly, who was on paternity leave when Clevenger was injured.
Iannetta started Saturday for the 61st time as the Mariners reached the midpoint of their schedule. He never started more than 105 games in his 10 previous big-league seasons.
"He has played a ton," Servais said, "and he’s done a really good job. He kind of hit the skids there, struggling with the bat, but the bat has been very good of late. He hasn’t had a lot of hits, but the at-bats have been good.
"He continues to do a really good job with our pitching staff."
Clevenger is hoping to return to active duty in six weeks after undergoing surgery that repaired his broken right hand by inserting a plate and six screws.
Clevenger suffered a broken third metacarpal — the bone in the hand below the knuckle of the middle finger — when hit on the knuckle Wednesday by a foul off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.
"He feels good — as good as he can feel," Servais said. "He’s optimistic. He’s hoping for six (weeks). Everybody says it’s six-to-eight (weeks)."
***Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush threw a simulated game Saturday in his recovery from biceps tendinitis in his shoulder. While results were encouraging, he still has what Servais termed "quite a few hurdles yet to jump."
Furbush hasn’t pitched in nearly a year — July 7, 2015 — and isn’t expected to return any time soon.
***Right-hander Nick Vincent is expected to begin playing catch Monday in his recovery from a strained muscle. The problem surfaced June 15 when he pitched 2 2/3 innings at Tampa Bay.
Vincent made five more appearances — and allowed four runs, including three homers in 5 1/3 innings — before the Mariners placed him in the disabled list June 29. He is eligible to return when play resumes after the All-Star break.
The Mariners are denying reports from multiple outlets that they have a $1.2 million deal in place to sign outfielder Luis Veloz, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic.
Veloz is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 29 prospect available in the international signing period, which began Saturday. He has been consistently linked to the Mariners.
The international signing period covers players who are not eligible for the MLB Draft — i.e., residents from outside of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.
Players must be at least 16 years old when the sign and turn 17 either by Sept. 1 or by the end of their first professional season. They must also register with the MLB Scouting Bureau.
Hi-A Bakersfield continued its surge Friday by capitalizing on eight errors — eight! — by Modesto (Rockies) in a 16-7 road victory. The Blaze scored nine unearned runs in the first inning.
Thirteen of Bakersfield’s 16 runs were unearned.
The Blaze improved to 7-2 in the second half of the California League season and now hold a three-game lead over Modesto and Visalia (Diamondbacks). Bakersfield has won 20 of its last 23 road games.
Overall, Bakersfield is 44-35 and is on a 30-12 run after a 14-23 start through May 16.
The Mariners acquired infielder Adam Law from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Friday deal for cash considerations and assigned him to Double-A Jackson.
Law, 26, is a fourth-year pro who was batting .276 with a .356 on-base percentage in 30 games at Double-A Tulsa. He is also the son and grandson of former big-league players.
Right-handed pitcher Vern Law, now 86, was 162-147 with a 3.77 ERA in 433 games over 16 big-league seasons from 1950-67.
Infielder Vance Law, 59, spend 11 seasons in the big leagues from 1980-91 with five clubs. He batted .256 with 71 homers and 442 RBIs in 1,212 career games.
It was 34 years ago Sunday — July 3, 1982 — that Jim Beattie became the first Mariner to be chosen as the American League’s pitcher of the month. He won the award for June after going 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA in six starts.
Mariners have won the award 16 times since Beattie’s selection, including four times by Felix Hernandez. Randy Johnson and Mark Langston were two-time recipients.
Others to win the award: Bill Krueger, Norm Charlton, Jeff Fassero, Freddy Garcia, J.J. Putz, Jarrod Washburn, Cliff Lee and Jason Vargas.
The Mariners’ bullpen, prior to Saturday, was holding opponents to a .222 batting average, which was the best among American League clubs…Kyle Seager and his brother, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, are the first pair of siblings to reach 15 homers prior to July 1 since 2003. (Kyle has 16; Corey has 17). The last brothers to achieve the feat were Bret Boone (22 with the Mariners) and Aaron Boone (15 with Cincinnati)…the Mariners, through Friday, were the only American League club with six players with 10 or more homers: Nelson Cruz 20, Robinson Cano 19, Seager 16, Adam Lind 11, Leonys Martin 11 and Dae-Ho Lee 11. The Washington Nationals are the only National League team with six in the double-digit club.
The Mariners and Orioles conclude their four-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday when right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (7-6 with a 4.34 ERA) faces Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (5-7 and 6.63).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners then depart for a seven-game trip that concludes their schedule before the All-Star break. They play three games at Houston and four games at Kansas City.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners