Iwakuma finds form against Angels

Iwakuma finds form against Angels

SEATTLE -- While they had to wait three months for him to get healthy, Hisashi Iwakuma finally delivered the sort of performance the Mariners expected this season with eight innings of three-hit ball Saturday night. And the relief was palpable in Seattle's clubhouse following a 5-0 win over the Angels.

"The bear is back," manger Lloyd McClendon said after Iwakuma notched his first win of the season.

The 34-year-old struggled in three early-season outings before going on the disabled list for 10 weeks with a strained lat muscle. He came back last week and gave up four home runs in five innings in a no-decision against the Tigers, again looking little like the standout who'd gone 37-19 with a 2.97 ERA in 77 starts the previous three years.

But after escaping a no-out, bases-loaded situation in the first inning on Saturday, Iwakuma settled in and allowed just one walk and one single in his final seven frames in a dominant performance against the division rivals. He's now 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 12 games against the Angels, but this win was especially important as he finished the first half of the season on a positive note.

"It's been a different year, a tough year so far," Iwakuma acknowledged through translator Antony Suzuki. "But I need to make up for what I've lost. The last previous couple starts I wasn't able to contribute, so from here on I'd like to contribute."

Even Iwakuma said he finally felt like his old self in this one.

"I felt good today overall," he said. "Everything was working and it felt like I was able to pitch my game."

It was vintage Iwakuma, agreed catcher Mike Zunino.

"It really was," Zunino said. "The ball was down. The sinker had good life to it, the four-seamer had a little extra at the end. He mixed his offspeed stuff. It was really nice to see a lot of ground balls and weak fly balls, too."

"That's the Iwakuma I know and love," said McClendon. "It's nice to see him back. I think his command got better [after the first inning]. He got loose, touched 93 mph. It was really good to see."

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