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Iwakuma combines on shutout, Mariners sweep Braves

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma made sure that the Atlanta Braves didn't get their first interleague victory of the season at his expense.

Iwakuma pitched seven strong innings despite the unfamiliar heat and humidity as the Mariners won their fifth straight game, defeating the Braves 2-0 on Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field.

"I had to focus more than regular because of the heat," the Japanese pitcher said through a translator.

Iwakuma (4-2) allowed six hits, walked none and struck out seven while lowering his ERA to 2.66. He threw 96 pitches, 71 of them strikes.

"He did a pretty nice job under the conditions," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said.

"When you haven't seen him before, he can really be tough," added catcher Mike Zunino.

The victory gave Seattle (31-28) a sweep of the two-game series and dropped Atlanta (31-27) to 0-6 in interleague play. The Braves lost four games to the Boston Red Sox last week.

Mike Minor (2-4) struck out a season-best 10 while allowing five hits and a run over seven innings in the hard-luck loss. The left-hander, who threw 109 pitches, walked three and lowered his ERA to 3.07 with a fifth straight quality start.

The Braves scored all their runs over the first two innings as the Mariners came back for a 7-5 victory and didn't score in the final 16 innings of the series.

Yoervis Medina pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief for the Mariners and Fernando Rodney got the Braves in order in the ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities.

Held to one hit through three innings by Minor, the Mariners scored the game's first run in the fourth on three singles. After hits by second baseman Robinson Cano and right fielder Stefan Romero leading off the inning, left fielder Cole Gillespie delivered a two-out RBI single on a 3-2 count.

Luis Avilan replaced Minor to start the eighth inning and the Mariners added on to their lead. Romero, batting in the cleanup spot, tripled with one out and third baseman Kyle Seager followed with an RBI single.

"As I've said before, we've got a BB gun and we dodge the bullets and shoot between the eyes," said McClendon, only half joking about his overachieving team.

Iwakuma had allowed nine runs in his previous two starts, losing to Houston and Detroit. The Braves, though, saw the pitcher that had won his first three decisions after starting the season on the disabled list because of a stained tendon in his middle finger.

"It was good to see his velocity back," McClendon said.

After allow two hits in the first inning and a leadoff single in the second, Iwakuma retired 12 consecutive batters until right fielder Jason Heyward led off the sixth inning for the Braves with his second hit of the game.

"Iwakuma was really, really tough," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said.

The Braves have scored one or few runs in four of Minor's last five starts at Turner Field.

"I used to always check the score and stuff, but I don't worry about it anymore when I'm pitching," Minor said. "It's just me against the batter. I don't think about being behind or ahead."

NOTES: 1B Justin Smoak, his average down to .212 and bothered by a tight quad, was out of the Seattle lineup for just the second time this season. "He's probably battling a little fatigue," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Instead of one day, I'm giving him two. Hopefully that will quicken his bat a bit. Smoak pinch hit and flew out. ... The Mariners are off Thursday before opening a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Friday. ... Seattle RF Stefan Romero, who hit a tying three-run pinch homer Wednesday, batted cleanup for the first time. ... The series with the Mariners is part of a 14-game stretch for the Braves where they play at home just twice. ... Atlanta begins a three-game series at Arizona on Friday. ... The Mariners and Braves play two games in Seattle on Aug. 5-6. ... The Braves went 2-1 against Seattle at Turner Field in 2008 in the Mariners' only previous trip to Atlanta. ... The teams had last played in 2011.
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