Chance for sweep eludes Mariners

Staff writerJune 17, 2013 

OAKLAND — The search for a series sweep continues for the Seattle Mariners.

It was all set up for the Mariners on Sunday to do what they hadn’t done this season — win every game of a series.

They even had Hisashi Iwakuma — arguably their best pitcher of late — starting the series finale at O.co Coliseum against the Oakland Athletics.

It was the fourth time Seattle had been in this situation. And as they did in Toronto in early May and earlier this month at home against the Chicago White Sox and Houston, the Mariners failed in that final game to secure the sweep.

In a season full of brilliance, Iwakuma was mediocre, and the Mariners’ anemic offense couldn’t come to his rescue in a 10-2 loss.

Oh, and the bullpen also helped turn a close game into a rout.

The next chance for a sweep might be a while with the Mariners opening a four-game series Monday in Anaheim, Calif., against the Los Angeles Angels.

Sunday was their chance.

They got Joe Saunders’ first road win Friday and a typical outing from Felix Hernandez on Saturday, but they couldn’t get an All-Star-level start from Iwakuma — their top All-Star candidate.

“It was a big game, and (Hernandez) pitched a great game yesterday, and I wanted to do the same for the sweep,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

The right-hander never seemed to have the pinpoint command that has made him so successful this season. He lasted five innings and gave up four runs on a season-high eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He fell to 7-2 this season, while his earned-run average rose from 1.79 to 2.06.

“He was up and over the plate a little bit,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He got out of some tough situations there early. But they started getting to him after that.”

It was Iwakuma’s shortest outing since April 23 against Houston, when he was charged with his only other loss.

“Obviously you guys could see it as well,” Iwakuma said. “The pitches that were hit were up in the zone, and I need to make an adjustment.”

Iwakuma’s lack of command was apparent early when he issued a one-out walk to his former catcher, John Jaso, in the first inning. It was one of three times he would walk Jaso.

Iwakuma had three runners reach third base in the first three innings, but he managed to work out of each situation without allowing a run.

Meanwhile, the Mariners gave him a 2-0 lead when Endy Chavez hit a two-run single off A’s starter Bartolo Colon in the top of the second.

It looked as if more runs would score, but Josh Reddick somehow caught Kyle Seager’s screaming line drive to right field.

With Reddick’s cannon-like throw, Mike Zunino, who was on third base, couldn’t tag and score.

“You can’t hit it much harder than that,” Wedge said. “He hit it so hard, it kind of stayed in the air for Reddick to get to it.”

That was all the Mariners would get against Colon. The veteran right-hander retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced and never got in serious trouble.

“We swung the bats well early, but Bartolo kind of settled in,” Wedge said. “He’s a good pitcher and knows how to make adjustments in a game.”

Iwakuma also is good at making in-game adjustments, but he couldn’t seem to find the right one Sunday.

He gave up three consecutive hits in the fourth inning, including an RBI double from Seth Smith and an RBI single from Reddick that tied the score. It was the first earned run Iwakuma had allowed in 312/3 innings.

The A’s took the lead an inning later. Yoenis Cespedes doubled deep to center to score Jaso from first base, and Brandon Moss followed with an RBI single for a 4-2 lead.

“First pitches and strike one, I couldn’t get that today,” Iwakuma said. “They were being very aggressive early in the count as well.”

With Iwakuma struggling and his pitch count rising, Wedge went to his bullpen after five innings.

The bullpen didn’t respond well. The two-run deficit ballooned to 8-2 in the seventh. Blake Beavan gave up back-to-back homers to Josh Donaldson and Smith. Tom Wilhelmsen came in and walked in a run, while another crossed on a sacrifice fly.

It got no better in the eighth inning when Carter Capps gave up solo homers to Moss and Reddick.

“It got away from us late, but still we have to go back and forth a little bit and answer when that happens,” Wedge said.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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