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 each 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 A.L. 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.
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.
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, to reach 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.”
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 home run.
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 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 home run. He also leads the majors with 123 RBIs.