Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon warned shortly after Hisashi Iwakuma returned from injury last month that the right-hander was getting near the top of his game.
Everyone is listening now.
Six days after pitching an unlikely no-hitter, Iwakuma takes the mound looking to help prevent the Texas Rangers from winning a ninth straight home game Tuesday night.
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Iwakuma (4-2, 3.86 ERA) went on the disabled list at the end of April with a right lat strain, then gave up five runs in a loss to Detroit when he returned July 6.
He's gone 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA in seven starts since that outing after holding Baltimore hitless in a 3-0 win Wednesday. It broke a streak of 12 straight no-hitters by NL pitchers and was the first in the AL since teammate Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15, 2012.
Iwakuma became the 17th pitcher since 1914 to throw his first career complete game in a no-hitter and the first since Philip Humber tossed a perfect game against the Mariners on April 21, 2012.
"It's nice to see because I think this is probably the longest stretch I've had him where he's been truly healthy and the ball is coming out and the velocity is back," McClendon said. "He can work down in the zone, he can elevate the fastball. That's what makes him special."
The Mariners (55-64) have lost three of four since Iwakuma's gem, though. Fernando Rodney walked Adrian Beltre with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Rangers a 4-3 victory Monday.
Beltre, batting .478 during a six-game hitting streak, doubled twice and drove in three runs against his former club. Texas (60-57) is on the verge of winning nine consecutive home games for the first time since July 4-23, 2011.
The Rangers also are seeking a sixth straight win overall that would push them four games over .500 for the first time since they were 37-33 after beating the Chicago White Sox on June 21. They trail Baltimore by one game in a tight race for the AL's second wild card.
"We know (Iwakuma) is really hot," manager Jeff Banister told MLB's official website. "We are going to prepare for him and use that game as part of the preparation. You look at the whole body of work, but the last couple starts are most important because that is the way he is trending. We know he is tough and we'll prepare accordingly."
Chi Chi Gonzalez might have to overcome his recent struggles in order for Texas to stay hot. Gonzalez (2-4, 4.22) went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA over his first four starts, but he's 0-3 with a 9.47 ERA over his last four. He was sent to the minors after giving up six runs in 1 2-3 innings against Los Angeles on July 3.
He returned Thursday in place of the then-injured Cole Hamels and allowed five runs before the Rangers began their winning streak with a 6-5 comeback victory over Minnesota. The rookie right-hander could be making his final start in the rotation after Derek Holland was activated from the disabled list to start Wednesday's series finale.
Texas is just 3-7 against the Mariners this season despite Monday's win. Former Ranger Nelson Cruz is batting .450 with at least one hit in each meeting and has reached base in 28 straight overall, the longest streak in the AL this season.
It's unclear if Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton will play after sitting out two straight and four of the last six with a sore left knee.