SEATTLE—Hisashi Iwakuma retired 16 in a row over one stretch of a solid seven-inning outing, Raul Ibañez homered for the first time in nearly a month, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics, 6-3, on Friday night at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma (4-1) took a one-hitter into the sixth inning before running into trouble, but put together another impressive outing to help cement himself and Felix Hernandez as one of the top rotation duos in baseball
Iwakuma has allowed only five earned runs over his past five starts, and the number could have been even smaller if not for a scoring change that ended up charging him with two earned runs against the A’s.
Iwakuma pitched ahead nearly from the start after Seattle scored twice in the first inning off Oakland starter Dan Straily (1-1). The Mariners later broke the game open with Ibañez’s three-run homer in the third inning that came with two outs.
The Athletics lost their season-high fifth in a row and dipped below .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-2. The A’s fell to 2-6 on their current 10-game trip and only once has Oakland scored more than three runs.
Overshadowed by Hernandez, the ace of the Mariners’ staff, Iwakuma has been nearly as solid as King Felix this season. He’s pitched at least six innings in seven of eight starts despite being bothered by a lingering blister on his pitching hand, and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any start.
Iwakuma gave up a solid leadoff single to right field to former Mariners teammate John Jaso and then was unhittable for the next five innings. He set down 15 straight with remarkable ease, through a combination of broken bats, weak ground balls and lazy flies. He struck out Yoenis Cespedes to close the first, struck out Derek Norris and Jaso in the third and retired Josh Donaldson and Daric Barton swinging to end the fifth inning.
Iwakuma’s streak finally ended at 16 in a row retired when Eric Sogard reached on an infield single — originally ruled an error — with one-out in the sixth inning. Sogard’s ground ball bounced off the glove of shortstop Brendan Ryan and he reached base without a throw. Jaso followed with a bloop single, and the A’s finally got to Iwakuma on Jed Lowrie’s two-out, two-run double into the right-field corner. Lowrie had just one RBI in his previous 17 games before the double.
The scoring change caused Iwakuma’s ERA to rise from 1.61 to 1.74. He gave up four hits, struck out nine and walked none. Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the ninth for his 10th save.
Straily struggled to get through five innings, but didn’t get help from his defense starting in the first inning that led to two runs. Kendrys Morales’ chopper to left side bounced past both third baseman Josh Donaldson and Lowrie at shortstop to put runners at the corners with one out instead of a possible inning-ending double play. Michael Morse followed with an RBI single and Justin Smoak lined an RBI double to give Iwakuma the early lead.
GUTIERREZ ON MEND, AGAIN
After leaving the game April 22 with a strained left hamstring and being placed on the 15-day disabled list, Franklin Gutierrez is getting closer to returning.
Gutierrez said he feels “good.” He has been running and taking batting practice for a week, but he’s yet to go at full speed or navigate the bases after the latest in a long string of injuries for the center fielder.
Gutierrez sounded optimistic, although Mariners manager Eric Wedge was less upbeat about the timeline.
“He’s feeling pretty good, but we’re not (at) the point where we’re going to run him just yet,” Wedge said. “Still going to take some time for him to get back. He’s progressing. We just haven’t done anything 100 percent.”
With Friday night’s win, the Mariners improved to 16-8 when their starting pitcher goes at least six innings. … The Mariners are in the midst of playing 14 of 17 games on the road, with this weekend’s three-game series against Oakland the only break. It’s the only time the Mariners are home from May 1-24.
Rookie Brandon Maurer (2-4, 6.07 ERA) faces Oakland’s Jarrod Parker (1-5, 7.34) today at 6:10 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports, 1030-AM and 710-AM.Staff writer Todd Dybas contributed to this report.