They didn’t get a chance to bat against one another as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners both used a designated hitter, but Monday’s game at Camelback Ranch was the first time Japanese natives Hisashi Iwakuma and Kenta Maeda started opposite each other.
Both pitchers took the mound for their fourth start of Spring Training. Maeda entered 1-0 with perfect ERA and 1.27 WHIP; he’d allowed just two unearned runs in 8.2 innings pitched over three previous outings.
Iwakuma was 2-0 with a 5.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP heading into Monday’s game. The elder right-hander was coming off a start in which he allowed five runs on seven hits over 2.2 innings pitched against the San Francisco Giants.
Maeda got off to a rough start, as the Mariners opened the game with three consecutive hits. Ketel Marte knocked a hustle double, Luis Sardiñas singled to left and Robinson Cano delivered a two-run base hit.
Maeda quickly settled in to induce a double play off Nelson Cruz’s bat, then got called strike three against Adam Lind. Maeda attributed his early struggles to overthrowing, according to Andy McCullough of the LA Times:
“In the first inning, I think I threw a little too hard,” Maeda said. “The next time around, I focused on locating my pitches low, in the strike zone.”
Maeda acknowledged pitching in the same game as Iwakuma brought a different energy than his previous starts had, via the Associated Press:
“This was fun,” Maeda said through an interpreter after his fourth spring start. “Today was a little bit more exciting than a usual start.”
Maeda went on to retire 15 of the next 16 batters after the Mariners’ early barrage of hits. He got through the expected five innings of work with five strikeouts to zero walks. Iwakuma tossed 4.1 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits, including a home run to Justin Turner.
Overall this spring, Maeda has a 1.32 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings pitched. What’s more, he’s recorded at least two strikeouts in each of his four outings.