ARLINGTON, Texas – This was nothing new for Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish.
It was only the eighth time Japanese starters had pitched against other in the majors, but the former Pacific League MVPs started the same game six times before they were rookies in America.
Darvish won again, surpassing 200 strikeouts while getting his 15th victory for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in a 9-3 win over Seattle on Friday night.
"It's not really any different between Japan and the major leagues for me," Iwakuma said through a translator. "We're friendly. In Japan, we go to dinner sometimes and I keep in touch with him."
Iwakuma (6-5) allowed only two runs, on homers by Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton, despite giving up seven hits over 5 1-3 innings.
The Rangers piled on seven runs in the eighth inning against four relievers.
"These are things that can't happen," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "When you get steamrolled like that, it should be one helluva of a wake-up call."
As for the Japanese starters, they last went head-to-head last year. Darvish threw a complete game for Hokkaido in a 2-0 win over Rakuten and Iwakuma, who worked 8 2-3 innings in that game.
Darvish (15-9) struck out nine Mariners in seven innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander often complemented his mid-90s fastball with a breaking pitch about 30 mph slower.
"Instead of trying to incorporate all the weapons he has, he's coming out of the bullpen recognizing what's working and he's using them," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "One time it's his slider, one time it's his four-seamer. Today, it was his cutter ... and the slow breaking ball."
After Carlos Peguero led off the fifth with a strikeout, Darvish's fourth of the game and 200th of the season, the Japanese star quickly added to that total. Trayvon Robinson took a called third strike and Munenori Kawasaki struck out swinging, missing a 94 mph pitch right after taking a 62 mph curve over the plate.
"It's a tough pitch, something you're not used to," Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said. "When he threw them, he threw it with a purpose."
With 205 strikeouts, Darvish is the first major league rookie over 200 since Daisuke Matsuzaka had 201 for Boston in 2007. He is the 16th rookie, sixth in the American League, with 200 strikeouts.
Darvish retired 12 of his last 13 batters, striking out seven in that stretch. He allowed two hits and walked two while throwing 79 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
"I thought Darvish had real good stuff. I thought that was obvious from the outset. He had the best feel for that slow breaking ball that I've seen," Wedge said. "He kept going to the hammer there and we weren't able to make that adjustment."
Darvish made his major league debut against the Mariners five months ago, a game he won after giving up four runs in the first inning. He had a 9.00 ERA in three previous starts against them.
"Just the difference between throwing against them tonight and my previous outings against them, I think it's just throwing strikes," Darvish said through his translator. "Or more precisely not feeling like I have to throw a strike."
It was Darvish's third consecutive start of at least seven innings while allowing three hits or less. The only other Rangers pitcher to ever do that was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, now the team president. He did it in 1990.
Michael Saunders led off the Seattle fourth with a 12-pitch walk. Seager followed with a double and Saunders scored on a sacrifice fly by Jesus Montero. In their previous game at Rangers Ballpark on May 30, the Mariners won 21-8.
Saunders led off the ninth with his 15th homer.
Kinsler's ball skipped over the top of the left-center field wall and ricocheted off a chair in the Mariners' bullpen and back onto the field. It was initially ruled a double, but it didn't take umpires long to correctly reverse their call after watching the replay.
Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting an injection in his sore left knee and missing a game. He pulled a ball into the second deck in right field in the third for his 42nd homer. He also leads the majors with 123 RBIs.
NOTES: Darvish is 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA his last six starts. ... The tarp wasn't taken off the field until an hour before the game, and there was still a light rain falling when the game started on time. It stopped about midway through the game. ... Seattle's defense turned consecutive inning-ending double plays. After David Murphy's liner ended the sixth, Kinsler's attempted bunt in the seventh was caught in the air by pitcher Josh Kinney and turned into a double play.