SEATTLE -- Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma admitted another matchup with Yu Darvish was significant Friday night, but out-dueling his fellow Japan native wasn't as important as ending the Mariners' three-game losing streak.
"This was a big game," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki after out-dueling his fellow countryman and beating the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Friday. "Obviously, we're on a losing streak. I wanted to stop that streak, and we got to face Darvish too." Iwakuma continued his torrid start to the season while helping the Mariners (5-7) end their three-game slide, but the Rangers' Darvish was pretty effective as well after a shaky first inning.
Darvish (2-1) gave up three hits and three runs in the first inning before pitching five hitless innings. But it wasn't enough as he lost for the first time this season and suffered his first defeat in nine starts dating back to last August.
"He just had trouble with his command, mainly with the fastball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Darvish's rough first inning, which resulted in a 3-0 deficit. "He just had trouble getting started early."
Seattle's 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. He has now won five consecutive decisions, dating back to last September, and has a 2.41 ERA during that span.
Iwakuma's only mistake came when the Rangers' Ian Kinsler hit a 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall to lead off the fourth inning.
Iwakuma said a blood blister on his finger was a factor in him leaving the game in the seventh, when he had thrown just 90 pitches. He added that he'll be ready for his next start in five days.
Iwakuma 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 Darvish yielded, and all three runs, came in the first inning. He eventually went six innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
"He went to a ton of off-speed pitches," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Darvish's success over his final five innings of work. "He pitched completely different than he had in the first, and obviously it was effective."
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 because of 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.
"The opportunities we had," Washington said, "we just couldn't cash them in."
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.
Washington said the finger was not a factor in Darvish's first-inning struggles.
"The finger held up well," the Rangers' manager said. "... It didn't come into play at all (Friday)."
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 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).
Afterward, Iwakuma was excited about getting a win, and beating the man that is considered by many to be Japan's best pitching import was icing on the cake.
"I knew from the very beginning that this was going to be a pitcher's game," Iwakuma said. "Knowing (Darvish) is going to be on the other side is always exciting because he's a very good pitcher."
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.