The omens, if you believe in such things, were there Wednesday for Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma even before he threw a pitch.
Iwakuma was the featured player on the printed ticket distributed to full season-ticket packages.
Now, that ticket is a collector’s item.
Iwakuma pitched no-hitter in a brilliant 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. The end came when center fielder Austin Jackson ran down Gerardo Parra’s fly ball in the left-center gap.
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“To be honest,” Iwakuma said, “when he first hit that ball, I thought it was going to drop for a base-hit. Then I thought, `Oh-oh.’ But when I saw Jackson show his glove up in the air, I was like, `Yes!’”
Jackson had no doubts.
“Oh, come on!” he said. “When it went up in the air — in that situation or, hopefully, any situation — that ball doesn’t touch the ground.”
Iwakuma (4-2) turned in jubilation when Jackson made the catch as his teammates rushed to mob him at the mound. He finished with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“I think the fifth inning is the longest I’ve ever gone without allowing hit,” Iwakuma said. “The ballgame was a tight ballgame, so I was trying to not think about what was going on. I was focusing on each hitter.”
The longest Iwakuma ever carried a no-hitter in 87 previous big-league starts was 4 1/3 innings on Aug. 28, 2012 in a 5-2 victory at Minnesota. But, again, there were signs early on that Wednesday was special.
“I started having a feeling in the fifth inning,” catcher Jesus Sucre said, “because he was making some quality pitches. Every time he threw a strike, he was happy. You could see it in his face.
“Every time he finished an inning, he was so happy.”
The crowd of 25,661 stood and cheered as Iwakuma, at 107 pitches, took the mound in the ninth inning. The roar increased each pitch.
Third baseman Kyle Seager recorded the first out in the ninth with a marvelous running over-the-shoulder catch on David Lough’s foul pop. It was then, finally, that Iwakuma allowed himself to envision a no-hitter.
“When Seager made that spectacular play,” he said. “That kind of made me think, `OK, I need to throw well.’”
Iwakuma threw well enough. Manny Machado grounded to Seager before Parra flied out to Jackson on Iwakuma’s 116th pitch.
“It’s not just a normal loss,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones acknowledged. “We’re going down in the history books on the bad side of a no-hitter. You tip your cap.
“The guy threw a hell of a game. Can’t just disrespect what he did. He went out there and did his job. I know him and Sucre were on the same page today.”
It was the fourth individual no-hitter in the franchise’s 39-year history.
▪ Randy Johnson beat Detroit 2-0 on June 2, 1990 at the Kingdome.
▪ Chris Bosio beat Boston 7-0 on April 22, 1993 at the Kingdome.
▪ Felix Hernandez beat Tampa Bay 1-0 on Aug. 15, 2012 in a perfect game at Safeco Field.
The Mariners also had a combined no-hitter on June 8, 2012 in a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field. Kevin Millwood went six innings before five relievers closed it out.
Hernandez was the last American League pitcher to throw a no-hitter. There have been 12 no-hitters by National League pitchers since Hernandez’s gem, including four this season.
“I think the outs are tougher (in the AL),” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think the lineups are deeper. The DHs are animals. Those are tough outs. There really are no easy outs in the American League.”
Iwakuma rolled through the first nine hitters before issuing two walks in the fourth. He then retired 10 in a row before starting the eighth inning with a walk to Jonathan Schoop.
Ryan Flaherty took a third strike before Caleb Joseph grounded into a double play.
“He didn’t miss,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You could count two or three pitches that he got in the area to say, ‘Gee, we should have done something with that.’
“And then as some of the anxiety mounts, you let him take you off the plate completely. That plays in pitcher’s favor when you try to do too much.”
The only other Japanese-born pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Hideo Nomo, who had two: Sept. 17, 1996 at Colorado while pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers; and April 4, 2001 at Baltimore while pitching for Boston.
“I never thought I would accomplish this,” Iwakuma said. “A lot of the credit goes to my teammates. They played great defense today, and we had three runs early.”
Those three runs came against Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman (2-4) and all came with two outs. Franklin Gutierrez opened the scoring with an RBI double in the third inning before scoring on Robinson Cano’s single.
Doubles by Jackson Sucre in the fourth provided the game’s final run.
Then it was just a matter of whether Iwakuma could complete his gem.
“I said about three weeks ago that I thought the Bear was back,” McClendon said, “and it’s only getting better. It’s nice to see. This is the longest stretch when I’ve had him that he’s been truly healthy.
“The ball is coming out (well). The velocity is back. He can work down in the zone. He can elevate the fastball. That’s what makes him special.”
June 2, 1990
April 22, 1993
Boston Red Sox
June 8, 2012
Aug. 15, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays
Aug. 12, 2015
*–Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen
FRIDAY: Seattle (LHP Mike Montgomery: 4-4, 3.25) at Boston (RHP Joe Kelly: 4-6, 5.96),
4:10 p.m., Root Sports, 1030-AM, 710-AM