Iwakuma delivers strong outing for Mariners

Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma gave the Seattle Mariners a typical pitching performance on Friday night. Only this time it came with a different ending.
After Iwakuma turned in yet another solid start in a 6-3 win over the struggling Oakland A's, he said that for the first time this season his pitching hand is blister free.
"My finger's good now," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki after allowing four hits and two runs in seven innings. "It's all healed up and I was able to pitch my game."
Iwakuma pitched five scoreless innings of near-perfect baseball before Oakland's Jed Lowrie came through with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth. That came after the Mariners jumped out to a 6-0 lead that proved to be more than enough for Iwakuma, who has now allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts this season.
"He's so consistent," said teammate Raul Ibanez, who hit a three-run homer in the third inning to give Seattle a 5-0 lead. "Every outing he goes out there, he gives you a great outing. It's fun to watch."
Iwakuma (4-1) pitched five scoreless innings of one-hit ball before the A's got to him in the sixth.
After giving up a single to John Jaso to lead off the game, Iwakuma retired 16 consecutive batters. That streak ended when Oakland's Eric Sogard reached on a sixth-inning single to shortstop that originally was ruled an error.
Jaso followed with a bloop single to left, and Lowrie's two-out double gave the A's their first two runs of the game to cut the Seattle lead to 6-2.
The change in official scoring, which came one at-bat after Sogard's sharply hit grounder bounced off the glove of Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan, ended up turning what would have been two unearned runs into earned runs. Iwakuma's ERA is now 1.74; had the error stood, his season ERA would be 1.39.
Left-hander Oliver Perez came on in relief of Iwakuma to start the eighth, only to give up a solo home run to Oakland's Derek Norris on his second pitch. Perez struck out the next three batters he faced before closer Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 10th save with a perfect ninth.
Seattle broke out of a three-game offensive slump by opening a big early lead and Iwakuma did the rest.
The Mariners (17-19) jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning, exceeding the cumulative run total they scored in their three previous games. Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak sandwiched RBI doubles around Ibanez's three-run homer, and Kyle Seager scored three runs for Seattle.
The Mariners' six runs were more than Seattle had scored in its previous three games combined.
Oakland (18-19) extended its season-long losing streak to five games. The A's have scored three runs or fewer in each of the losses. Oakland has now lost 15 of its past 21 games.
"Everybody has to pick everybody up, and we're not doing that right now," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We're struggling."
The Mariners jumped on Oakland starter Dan Straily early. A one-out walk to Seager in the first was followed by three consecutive hits. Smoak's RBI double gave Seattle a 2-0 lead before Straily retired two consecutive batters to get out of the inning.
The A's had a chance to get out of the first without any damage, but a potential inning-ending double-play ball just got past third baseman Josh Donaldson and Lowrie at shortstop for a one-out single to set up the two runs.
"I don't know if it's a double play," Melvin said of the play, "but it's certainly an out (if either Donaldson or Lowrie was able to corral the ball)."
After Ibanez hit a 1-1 pitch over the right-field fence for a two-out, three-run homer in the third, Morales had a fifth-inning RBI double to give the Mariners a 6-0 advantage.
Straily ended up allowing six hits and six runs while walking four in five innings.
NOTES: Jaso led off the game with a single, becoming the third leadoff hitter in Iwakuma's last three starts to reach base. Iwakuma got out of all three first innings without allowing a run. ... Going into the game, Seattle had already matched the franchise's season-high total of five home runs to lead off games. Michael Saunders almost broke the record on an 0-2 pitch, but A's left fielder Seth Smith caught his high fly ball on the warning track. ... Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz rejoined the team but did not serve in his usual role. Datz is still dealing with cancer and has not coached in a week and a half. Former Triple-A manager Daren Brown is filling in as third-base coach.

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