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Mariners' pitching trumps Verlander, Tigers

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- A pre-existing blister on the right hand of Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma kept him from coming out for the seventh inning after another solid start Thursday afternoon.

In hindsight, Detroit's Justin Verlander might have been better off watching the seventh from the dugout as well.

In a second straight pitchers' duel between the Tigers and Mariners, Verlander threw a season-high 126 pitches and eventually gave up three consecutive two-out hits during the seventh inning of a 2-0 loss.

Pinch-hitter Kyle Seager drove in the game's first run with an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh, then came around to score on an Endy Chavez single. That was enough for Iwakuma, who pitched six scoreless innings and allowed three hits but didn't factor into the decision.

"Kuma was fantastic," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He's still having issues with the finger, obviously; that's why we had to get him out of there."

Iwakuma developed a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand during spring training, but it hasn't affected his results this season. His six shutout innings dropped Iwakuma's season ERA to 1.69 after he helped shut down one of the best offensive lineups in the American League.

Reliever Carter Capps (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings to post his first career victory, and closer Tom Wilhelmsen got a little help from Chavez's diving catch in center field during a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save of the season.

For most of the afternoon, it was Verlander's day. Making his fourth daytime start in as many appearances this season, Verlander was in typical form as the teams battled through 6 1/2 scoreless innings.

He struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh, giving Verlander 12 strikeouts for the day, but then gave up a single to Seattle's Robert Andino. Seager, who is Seattle's everyday third baseman but was being given a day off, pinch-hit for shortstop Brendan Ryan and hit a Verlander breaking ball down the left-field line to score Andino for the game's first run.

Verlander said after the game that he regretted both the selection and the location of the pitch.

"My breaking ball was probably the worst of my pitches I threw (Thursday)," he said. "I threw only one or two good ones all day."

Wedge said using Seager as a pinch hitter was "not a normal situation" but added that Seattle needed an offensive boost.

"Until we get everything going," Wedge said, "every opportunity we have to create for ourselves, we're going to do it."

Verlander became the second starter in a row to strike out 12 Mariners, joining teammate Max Scherzer. In a span of two games, Seattle hitters have now struck out 31 times.

Verlander's velocity was peaking in the seventh, when he was clocked at 97 mph, but Seager got to him when it counted. The Mariners had three consecutive hits in the seventh, coming after a steady drizzle caused officials to close the roof midway through the sixth.

In four starts this season, all in the day, Verlander is 2-2 with a 2.13 ERA. In his career, Verlander is 49-18 with a 2.84 ERA in day games.

Verlander's 126 pitches were a season high, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland said stamina was not an issue in the seventh.

"It wasn't like a big-effort 126," Leyland said. "It's not like he was maxing out every time. ... He'll be fine."

Verlander said his arm wasn't fatigued but added that he should have kept his pitch count down earlier in the game.

"A few more pitches than I would have liked," he said.

The Tigers managed just five hits. The AL's best offensive team had 12 hits, two runs, a .150 batting average and 26 strikeouts in the final two games of the series. Detroit didn't score an earned run off Seattle's starting pitchers in either game.

"We just couldn't hit today," Leyland said. "They pitched great. We've seen a lot of good pitching the last two days."

Both teams needed good performances from their starters after a bullpen-eating, 14-inning game the previous night. Verlander and Iwakuma filled that role, and only three relievers had to work Thursday.

"It was a short night, but we came back and both teams were playing good, hard baseball," Wedge said.

NOTES: In the final two games of the series, the Tigers and Mariners combined for five runs, 32 hits and 57 strikeouts. ... Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter got the day off for Detroit. Don Kelly took his spot in right field, and leftfielder Andy Dirks moved up to Hunter's No. 2 slot in the batting order. ... Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak played in his 17th consecutive game. He's the only Seattle player who has yet to sit out a game this season.
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