Consider this the pitching equivalent of "it's a line drive in the box score." Just as a hit is a hit on the back of your baseball card, Hisashi Iwakuma will take his first Major League save even if it wasn't your normal save.
Iwakuma collected the first save of his big league career in ... unconventional fashion on Wednesday. He entered a game that Seattle led, 17-5, in the seventh inning, following six innings by starter Blake Beavan. Iwakuma allowed two runs in the seventh and one more in the ninth. But he finished the game, and per the rulebook, that means he gets a save.
The final score was 21-8, Seattle, meaning that Iwakuma picked up the save in a game his team won by 13 runs. It doesn't happen every day, but believe it or not, it's not unprecedented. And in fact, one save was recorded in a game where the final margin was more than twice the Mariners' advantage. But more on that in a moment.
As for how he did it, the save rule contains three requirements. First, a pitcher must be the last pitcher in a game his team wins. Second, he must not be the winning pitcher. And third, he must do one of the following: pitch at least one inning with no more than a three-run lead, enter the game with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck, or pitch for at least three innings. Iwakuma hit the first two and completed three frames.
Still, he was nowhere close to the Major League record. The record for the biggest margin in a game with a save will likely never be touched, and coincidentally the game also included the Rangers. Texas' Wes Littleton pitched three shutout innings in a 30-3 win over the Orioles in the opener of a doubleheader in 2007.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Iwakuma is the 52nd pitcher since 1980 to pitch at least three innings in a save and allow at least three runs. Since 2000, he's the 11th pitcher to record a save of at least three innings in a game his team won by 13 or more runs.
"It was good to get him out there again. And, [heck], he got his first save. Good for him," said manager Eric Wedge.
This was just the fifth time Iwakuma has pitched as he's a former starter in Japan who is being used in long relief in his first season in Seattle.