While second-year Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma prepares to pitch in his first All-Star Game next week, his performance on the mound lately has been anything but All-Star-caliber.
Iwakuma gave up six runs in only three innings of work Tuesday night against Boston. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
After soaring in his first 14 starts of the season and claiming baseball’s best ERA, the Japanese implant has plummeted back to mediocrity in recent outings, capped by Tuesday night’s loss to the Red Sox in which Iwakuma served up three home runs and six runs in just three innings of work.
In his first 14 starts, the 32-year-old righty was nearly unhittable, giving up just 19 runs in more than 95 innings of work. The surprisingly strong start made Iwakuma and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez the top pitching tandem in baseball, and earned Iwakuma the honors of pitching in next Tuesday’s All-Star contest at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y.
Much to the dismay of Mariners fans, Iwakuma has faltered in his last five outings. In his last 29 innings of work, Iwakuma has allowed 22 runs — totaling an ERA of 6.83 over that span.
That’s not good. It certainly isn’t All-Star pitching.
The cold spell has many questioning whether Iwakuma has just been plain bad lately or if the league has “figured him out.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge believes it’s the former, saying Tuesday he thought Iwakuma just hasn’t been himself lately.
“Tonight I thought he was a little flat,” Wedge said after the team’s 11-8 loss to Boston at Safeco Field. “He didn’t seem to have quite the same end on his pitches that we’ve seen.”
“It was just some bad misses,” Wedge continued. “The home run has really hurt him in the last four or five starts. He was just missing up in the middle of the plate.”
As Wedge said, the dinger has certainly hurt Iwakuma this season, and especially of late. Iwakuma has allowed 20 balls of the long variety — home runs, that is — tying him for the third in the league for home runs allowed. In his last four starts alone, the right-hander has given up a total of 10 homers.
Perhaps it’s simply a matter of taking a break, but Iwakuma’s recent struggles have certainly raised red flags. The body of work has still been impressive this season, but it remains to be seen whether Iwakuma can continue to pitch like the All-Star he is in the second half.