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Iwakuma 'nasty' in Mariners' win over Twins

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Seattle's Felix Hernandez might be one of the best pitchers in baseball, but right now, he might not even be the best pitcher on his team.

The Mariners' starting rotation has been on a roll of late, and Friday night was no different. Hisashi Iwakuma tossed 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in Seattle's 3-0 win at Minnesota.

In the Mariners' past six games, Seattle starting pitchers have given up nine earned runs for a paltry 1.79 ERA.

Iwakuma was overpowering at times and cunning when he needed to be, stranding eight Twins baserunners as he won his fourth straight decision.

"I was able to make good pitches when I needed to," said Iwakuma through an interpreter. "I didn't have a very good bullpen (session). I thought my balance wasn't right, but then I was able to make the adjustment during the game."

Iwakuma was nicked for seven hits and walked two while striking out five. It was the ninth time in 11 starts that Iwakuma (6-1) allowed two or fewer earned runs.

"Oh, my gosh, I mean, he's so nasty," said shortstop Brendan Ryan, who had two hits and threw a runner out at the plate off a high bouncer behind the mound. "His stuff is great. He's fun to play behind; he throws strikes. He's a great guy to have on your team."

Kendrys Morales' two-run homer in the sixth inning was all the offense the Mariners needed to win for the fourth time in six games and stop the Twins' four-game winning streak.

"Our bottom of the order was really good, but overall their guy pitched very, very well," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who noted Iwakuma's deceptive delivery was tough to deal with.

Twins starter Mike Pelfrey matched Iwakuma zero-for-zero until the sixth inning, when Morales followed a single by Kyle Seager with his two-run blast over the deepest part of center-field. Pelfrey (3-6) was able to get only one more out before leaving the game.

"My command wasn't very good. I put myself in bad situations," said Pelfrey (3-6) after losing for the fourth time in his last five decisions a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. "I would like for this to be going a lot better than what it is. At the end of the day it eats me alive."

Minnesota stranded eight runners, two of them at third base.

Both teams threatened early but failed to score. The Mariners had runners on first and second in the second and fifth innings, but got nothing out of either rally. The Twins failed to score in the third after putting runners on the corners.

Iwakuma and Pelfrey benefited from double plays in the early innings, and each came up with a key strikeout as well.

Seattle appeared ready to take the early lead in the fifth inning with two outs and a runner on third. Jason Bay sent a deep drive to right field that Chris Parmelee caught before crashing into the wall.

The Mariners got a break in the bottom of the fifth when Parmelee was held at third base when Pedro Florimon's two-out slice to left field bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double. Jamey Carroll bounced back to the box to end the threat.

NOTES: Twins outfielder Wilkin Ramirez is not expected to be activated when he's eligible to come off the seven-day concussion list on Sunday. He's been taking tests every day since getting hurt in a collision with left fielder Josh Willingham last Saturday in Detroit. ... Joe Mauer's next home run will be the 100th of his career. ... Seattle catcher Jesus Sucre avoided injury at the plate in the third inning by tagging then spinning away from Parmelee, who came home standing up trying to knock the ball loose. ... The Mariners have seven shutouts this season, six of them combined. The only complete game shutout was by Aaron Harang earlier this week against San Diego.
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