... okay, okay, maybe the Rays didn't exactly sweat a death machine out there. They did sweat 7 strikeouts, though
Aaaaaand Heeeeere's Mr. WBC-San
Iwakuma had drawn his katana and set his back foot against his lumbering but mean-spirited American attackers, and I flat enjoyed watching the skirmish evolve. In the booth, they were beginning to back off their (admittedly justified) "let's see if he can survive" tone and sort of quietly watch to see what was going on.
The second out of the third inning, came The Pitch that stood the Rays' boxing team up for chin shots:
After busting Upton inside with fastballs on pitches two and three, Iwakuma reared back and fired a fastball at the knees... Upton swung and the ball ... disappeared. WHAAaaaaaa? Where'd it go? Montero had smothered it with his glove. :blinks: THE FORKBALL! THE FORKBALL! HE'S GOT ONE! THAT WAS THE FORKBALL!
Well, not really a forkball, as we'll see in a second, but. Iwakuma simply butchered Upton on that entire at-bat and you could visibly watch him smile and relax. From that point on, the leg kick hitched more and more. The shoulder tucked a bit, the foot twirled higher, and the fastball started rising as he snapped it off.
Okay. Anyway. Next hitter, the lefty Carlos Pena.
This time three (3) hostile, jam fastballs, whipsawed against two Jamie Moyer deadfish splitters low and away. Think about those five pitches for a minute. You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me. In his SECOND start?
Danger Zone, Dept.
To make a long, happy story short ... er, to make a long story medium, it turns out that Iwakuma's "two strike splitter" isn't actually a forkball. It is his Shuuto, except thrown with the intention of dropping well below the knees.
Here is the Brooks on it. It's got that movement that we thought was impossible with Steve Delabar: it moves armside, AND rolls off the table like a power curve ball. It comes in hard, 84 MPH, and he sells it like a fastball. It's a great, great pitch.
Thrown to drop below the knees, it may be almost as good as League's or Sasaki's. Thrown up in the zone, it's like a reverse Rivera cutter that righties can't barrel up to save their lives.
So why didn't Iwakuma throw this "drop below the knees" version of the Shuuto before, when he had two strikes? :: blank stare :: Anybody from Japan who can answer that question, get a pound of Starbucks from me.
Armed with a fearsome 2-strike pitch that commands respect, Hasegawa's entire arsenal transmogrifies....