Hisashi Iwakuma's nickname should be "The King and I" because he has followed in the footsteps of Felix Hernandez's latest gems.
King Felix threw a two-hitter at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 4, a perfect game on Aug. 15 versus Tampa Bay and just tossed a five-hit shutout in Monday night's 1-0 win at Minnesota.
And in the shadows of those masterpieces is Iwakuma.
The Japanese right-hander draws the start in Tuesday's second installment of a four-game series against the Twins and is 3-1 in his last five trips to the mound. He did not record a decision in a 3-1 win over Cleveland last Wednesday and held the Tribe to a run in 5 2/3 innings of work. Iwakuma is 4-3 with a 3.64 earned run average in 23 games (9 starts) in his rookie campaign.
"He's a guy that has worked his way into the rotation and done a nice job," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm curious to see how he finishes the season out, pitching in the rotation and getting regular work as a starter."
Wedge has seen enough from Hernandez, who dominated once again on Monday with his fifth shutout of the season. The AL Cy Young Award candidate scattered five hits, struck out five and walked one batter, pushing his record to 13-5 in 27 starts this season. He has allowed one run in the past three starts.
"I was just trying to make good pitches, keep the ball down," said Hernandez, who is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA over his last 14 appearances.
Eric Thames' leadoff home run in the eighth inning was all the run support Hernandez would need. Seattle has homered in 10 straight games, the longest streak since an 11-game run back in 2009.
The Mariners ended a three-game losing streak and are 1-3 on a seven-game road trip since ripping off eight wins in a row.
Minnesota lost for the 15th time in 18 tries last night in its first game back from a 10-game road trip (2-8).
Twins starter Liam Hendriks went the distance, but fell to 0-7 after serving up Thames' home run. Hendriks allowed three hits, fanned six batters and issued three walks.
"I know I can go out there and compete. I think I can get better from this. I wasn't even throwing as hard as I can," Hendriks said. "I mean, I was giving it all I got. But it's one of those things. So I'll go out there again and keep doing this and putting zeros on the board."
Joe Mauer had a hit and broke Earl Battey's all-time games caught record. Mauer has been behind the plate 832 times in his career and already passed Battey for games started at catcher with 795 on Aug. 18 against the Mariners.
"I just found out about a few days ago," Mauer said on the club's website. "It's pretty neat to think about. He was a great player for this organization. So to pass a player like Earl Battey is special to me."
Twins slugger Justin Morneau tripled last night, and is still six home runs shy of passing Kirby Puckett (207) for fifth place on the club's all-time home run list. After Morneau tripled in the bottom of the seventh, Hernandez induced three straight ground-ball outs to end the threat.
Scott Diamond will take the mound for the struggling Twins tonight and is appealing a six-game suspension for allegedly throwing at the head of Texas star Josh Hamilton on Thursday. Diamond did not receive a decision in that 10-6 loss and lasted only 2 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs and three hits, and hasn't factored in the outcome in any of his previous three starts.
Diamond, a left-hander, is 10-5 with a 3.04 earned run average in 20 starts this season and faced Seattle in a 3-2 setback on Aug. 18, when he allowed two runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 frames. That was the first time Diamond squared off with the Mariners. He is 6-2 in 10 Target Field starts in 2012.
Minnesota has lost six in a row to the Mariners and is 1-6 in the season series so far.