SEATTLE - Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma continued his torrid start to the season by outdueling fellow Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, leading the Mariners to a 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday.
Seattle (5-7) snapped a three-game losing streak while Darvish (2-1) lost for the first time this season and suffered his first defeat in nine starts dating back to last August.
Iwakuma (2-0) continued his own hot streak by giving up just three hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts along the way. Iwakuma's only mistake came when the Rangers' Ian Kinsler hit a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield wall to lead off the fourth inning.
Iwakuma has now won five consecutive decisions, dating back to last September, and has a 2.41 ERA during that span.
He got all the offense he needed in the bottom of the first, when Seattle jumped on Darvish for three runs. Kyle Seager's two-out double gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead, which held up even though Darvish eventually found his form.
All three of the hits Davish yielded, and all three runs, came in the first inning. He eventually went six innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
Darvish has now lost all three of his career starts at Safeco, while he has an 18-6 record everywhere else. He still holds a career advantage over Iwakuma, as Darvish's teams are 4-3 in head-to-head battles going back to their time together in Japan.
The Mariners, who were playing without starting outfielders Michael Saunders and Michael Morse due to injuries, managed three more hits in the game but hit into inning-ending double plays in both the seventh and eighth.
The Rangers (7-4) had runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings but ended up leaving seven runners on base in those four frames.
Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fourth save in as many opportunities this season.
Pitching for the first time since his April 7 start was cut short by a finger abrasion, Darvish struggled with his command at the outset. After Endy Chavez led off the bottom of the first with a long flyout to right, Darvish hit Jason Bay with a pitch. Three pitches later, Darvish's wild pitch moved Bay to second base, then successive hits by Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez gave Seattle a 1-0 lead with one out.
After a Justin Smoak flyout, Seager hit a two-out double down the right-field line to score Morales and Ibanez, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.
Darvish pitched his way out of trouble in the third before the Rangers' offense finally got to Iwakuma. Kinsler led off the fourth inning with a home run after Iwakuma had retired the Rangers' first nine batters.
Iwakuma had five strikeouts through the first five innings. Lance Berkman, who leads Texas in batting, struck out on each of his first two at-bats.
But Iwakuma did give up his first walk of the season, surrendering a two-out pass to Mitch Moreland in the fifth. That ended a streak of 18 innings without a walk, the Mariners' second-longest such streak to start a season (Cliff Lee holds the record at 22 1/3 innings in 2010).
NOTES: Before the game, the Mariners announced that veteran Aaron Harang would start Tuesday's game against Detroit. Harang was acquired from Colorado on Thursday and will take Blake Beavan's spot in the rotation. Manager Eric Wedge said Friday that Beavan will now be in the Mariners' bullpen. ... Mariners designated hitter Morales got his first career hit off Darvish with a first-inning single. Up to that point, Morales had gone hitless in 13 at-bats against Darvish, with 13 strikeouts. ... The Iwakuma-Darvish matchup marked the 10th time in major league history that two natives of Japan started in the same game. The pair also squared off last September, when Darvish out-dueled Iwakuma in the Rangers' 9-3.