After concluding a losing road trip in positive fashion, the Seattle Mariners will try to keep heading in the right direction with help from what they hope is a healthier Hisashi Iwakuma.
The right-hander looks to lead Seattle to a third straight win Monday night by claiming his third in as many starts against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Seattle (52-59) dropped four straight to open a six-game trip and suffered its seventh loss in nine overall contests Friday to Baltimore. The Mariners rebounded with back-to-back wins against the Orioles as backup catcher Henry Blanco's two-run homer in the seventh inning Sunday paved the way for a 3-2 victory.
Seattle had six hits in that game, but is batting .300 with 30 runs over its last five contests.
While hoping to see his teammates shine at the plate again, Iwakuma (10-4, 2.76 ERA) will try to improve on a 3-0 record and a 1.75 ERA in his last four starts. Despite dealing with a knot in his left shoulder, he gave up two unearned runs over 5 2-3 innings in Boston on Wednesday before the Mariners fell 5-4 in 15 innings.
"I'd been having a minor pain in my neck since my last start," Iwakuma told the team's official website through a translator. "It's been bothering me, but nothing major. It did affect my pitches, because I couldn't command to both sides of the plate, but I was able to pitch inside to a lot of the hitters."
Iwakuma has shined in his two starts against Toronto, posting a 1.20 ERA. He gave up one run over seven innings in an 8-1 win at the Rogers Centre on May 4 and fanned a career-high 13 in his lone home matchup, a 4-1 victory July 30, 2012.
That win started the Mariners toward a three-game sweep at Safeco Field, the most recent meeting there between the clubs, and Seattle has won seven of nine overall against Toronto.
The Blue Jays (51-60) snapped a three-game skid Sunday by rallying for a 6-5 victory in Anaheim and avoiding a sweep by the Angels. Toronto scored two runs in each of the final two innings with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting two-out RBI singles in the ninth.
"That comeback was huge," shortstop Jose Reyes said. "We haven't had a win like that in a long time. We never quit. When you come from behind like that in the ninth inning, especially after the way we've been playing, it was good to see."
Former Mariners pitcher R.A. Dickey (8-11, 4.66) is winless in his last five starts but held Oakland to two unearned runs over six innings Wednesday. The knuckleballer, who appeared in 32 games and made 14 starts for Seattle in 2008, is 1-1 with a 10.03 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners.
He was tagged for seven runs in six innings while being beaten by Iwakuma on May 4.
Pitching in the United States this season, Dickey has been far better. He has a 3.28 ERA in 11 road starts, including a 1.01 mark in his last four.
The Mariners likely won't have manager Eric Wedge for the start of this six-game homestand. Wedge has spent the past two weeks recovering from a minor stroke suffered at the beginning of a seven-game homestand July 22.