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Iwakuma among AL's top pitchers in stellar first season

Iwakuma among AL's top pitchers in stellar first season

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ST. LOUIS -- How good has Hisashi Iwakuma been this season, his first full year as a starter in the Majors?

After seven scoreless innings in Friday's no-decision against the Cardinals, Iwakuma now ranks second in the American League in WHIP (1.03), second in innings (203 2/3), fourth in ERA (2.87) and fifth in strikeouts-to-walk ratio (4.36). He is second in opponent's on-base percentage (.263), fifth in opponent's batting average (.225) and sixth in opponent's OPS (.646).

The Cardinals were impressed after facing the 32-year-old from Japan for the first time, managing just three hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

"He does a nice job of pounding the zone," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "You can tell he's been around a while. He knows when to attack it, when to expand. He's speeding guys up and slowing them down to some pretty extreme measures. He's got enough movement that he can challenge guys early in the count. He did a nice job, kept us off balance."

Iwakuma set a career high in innings when he reached 203 2/3 following Friday's start, surpassing his high in Japan of 201 2/3, set in 2008.

Iwakuma will start two more games if the Mariners stay in their current six-man rotation and manager Eric Wedge said Saturday the plan is to keep him in the mix the rest of the way despite his high innings total.

"I feel pretty good right now," Iwakuma said after Friday's start through translator Antony Suzuki. "At times I've felt a little fatigued during the season, but right now I feel better."

Iwakuma has had four straight no-decisions, but he's 2-0 with a 2.27 ERA over his last six starts to put him at 12-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 31 games.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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