— Off the bat, Hisashi Iwakuma believed the slicing flyball was going to find its way to the outfield grass and end his dream of joining an elite pitching fraternity one out shy.
Then he saw Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson sprinting with his glove extended in the air, ready to squeeze the final out and put Iwakuma’s name next to Hideo Nomo as the only Japanese-born pitchers to throw a no-hitter in the major leagues.
“I can’t find the words to express my feelings,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter after the fourth no-hitter in the major leagues this season. “I’m truly happy.”
Iwakuma, 34, became the first American League pitcher in nearly three years to throw a no-hitter, beating the Baltimore Orioles, 3-0, Wednesday.
The often-injured right-hander didn’t overpower the Orioles. That’s not his style. He used a biting splitter and precise control to throw the fourth individual no-hitter in franchise history.
There had been three no-hitters this year, by San Francisco’s Chris Heston, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels before being traded by Philadelphia to Texas.
Iwakuma’s teammate Felix Hernandez, who threw a perfect game Aug. 15, 2012, had been the last AL pitcher to keep an opponent hitless.
“I’m just glad it’s over. I’ve had to pee since the fifth inning,” Manager Lloyd McClendon said, jokingly. “It’s pretty special. I’ve seen a lot. I thought in the fifth inning his stuff was really sharp and his split was coming out crisp. I thought you never know but he may have a shot here.”
Iwakuma struck out seven batters and walked three. He got defensive help to open the ninth inning when third baseman Kyle Seager made an over-the-shoulder catch of David Lough’s foul ball near the stands.
“In that situation you’re not letting it get down if you can,” Seager said. “You’re going to do whatever you can.”
Franklin Gutierrez had a run-scoring double and Robinson Cano a run-scoring single, both with two outs in the third inning against Kevin Gausman (2-4).
Jackson led off the fourth with a double and scored on Jesus Sucre’s RBI double, again with two outs. It was just the fifth hit of the season for Sucre, Seattle’s backup catcher.
The Orioles’ best chance at getting to Iwakuma came in the fourth inning after Manny Machado walked to lead off and Gerardo Parra chopped a grounder between first baseman Mark Trumbo and second baseman Cano, who tracked down the grounder in shallow right field and threw out Parra.
Iwakuma walked Chris Davis with two outs but struck out Jimmy Paredes to end the threat.
Iwakuma walked Jonathan Schoop on a check-swing, full-count pitch to open the eighth inning. But after striking out Ryan Flaherty looking, Iwakuma got Caleb Joseph to ground into a double play.
“It’s not just a normal loss. We’re going down in the history books on the bad side of a no-hitter,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “But tip your cap. Iwakuma threw his game.”
Iwakuma sat out 2 1/2 months early this season after straining a muscle in his back and side.
“That’s all I thought was to come back and give it all I’ve got every start and make up for the lost time I had in the first half,” Iwakuma said.
Baltimore was held hitless for the seventh time in franchise history and the first time since Boston’s Clay Buchholz did it in 2007.