By Brent Stecker
To say the Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma last few days have been a roller-coaster ride is an understatement.
Iwakuma was honored for a sparkling first half to the season by being named an All-Star on Saturday, joining teammate Felix Hernandez on the American League team. But disaster struck on Tuesday, when the Red Sox bounced him from a start after just three innings, pounding him for six earned runs on eight hits, including three home runs.
Recent All-Star selection Hisashi Iwakuma’s ERA has ballooned over a full point in his last six starts. (AP)
Mariners announcer Rick Rizzs joined “Wyman, Mike and Moore” on 710 ESPN Seattle, and he explained that Iwakuma’s recent woes, which have resulted in his ERA ballooning from 1.79 to 2.97 over his last six starts, stem from pitching too much in the strike zone.
“They say pitching is like real estate — it’s all about location, location, location. In the big leagues you gotta live on the corners and you gotta know when to miss,” Rizzs said. “Here in the big leagues, and especially when you play the Boston Red Sox, you make a mistake, they’re gonna hit you hard.”
Iwakuma’s ability to throw strikes is the main reason he has just 18 walks in 124.1 innings and holds an American League-leading 0.92 WHIP. But it has also resulted in him yielding 20 home runs, which are tied for third-most in the Majors.
“There are a lot of home runs there. But he’s always around the plate — he doesn’t walk anybody,” Rizzs said. “Usually guys like that will give up some home runs. Twenty at this point in the season maybe is a concern. But you can’t find anything else wrong with the way that he’s (pitched). He’s struggled a bit, but even Felix has his rough moments.”
After seeing what Iwakuma looks like at his best earlier this season, Rizzs is optimistic the Japanese export will work through his struggles sooner rather than later.
“All I know is this guy’s been phenomenal in the first half of the season, and it’s one guy I’m not really worried about,” he said. “This guy has a great work ethic. He works real hard between starts. He and (Mariners pitching coach) Carl Willis I’m sure will sit down and try to figure it out. I think he’s gonna work hard and get back on track and remember where he was about four or five starts ago.”