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Iwakuma keeps Mariners in the game

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By Ryan Divish
The News Tribune
SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma's performance was a bit of an afterthought after Sunday's 13-inning, 4-hour and 9-minute, 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
But as manager Eric Wedge pointed out, Iwakuma's solid outing -- eight innings pitched, two runs allowed on five hits with nine strikeouts, made it possible for the Mariners' beat up and overworked bullpen to win the game late.
"Kuma set the tone," Wedge said. "He got us deep in the ball game. If he doesn't get us deep in the ballgame, it's a different bullpen for us."
Iwakuma was more than aware of the Mariners eight-game losing streak and wanted to help put a stop to it.
"Having that strong feeling inside of needing to stop the losing streak was one thing I had in mind," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki.
Iwakuma started off slow, surrendering up a lead-off homer to Jurickson Profar to start the game. Texas added another run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly.
"It wasn't easy to start the game," Iwakuma said. "The breaking pitches caught the fat part of the plate. I made a good adjustment and threw more fastballs from the third inning on."
It was an adjustment that he worked on with catcher Jesus Sucre. The two had only worked together briefly in spring training. But they build a nice rhythm and rapport throughout the game.
"He saw the hitters were sitting on breaking pitches and splitters after two strikes," Iwakuma said. "He called a great game. He called more fastballs and made sure I got the breaking pitches down in the zone."
It's the second straight start that teams have made an effort to lay off Iwakuma's nasty splitfinger fastball with two strikes. Cleveland hitters had success as well. Iwakuma believes that using the fastball in those situations will offset it.
"I have take advantage of those counts and use the fastballs and fastball up in the zone as well," he said.
Smoak has oblique strain
First baseman Justin Smoak sustained an oblique strain in Saturday's loss to the Rangers. The good news for Smoak and the Mariners is that it doesn't appear to be as serious as first thought.
"He felt a little bit better than we anticipated," Wedge said. "We'll just have to take it day by day. He's not going to do anything today. He's just day to day. I think it be interesting to see how he feels tomorrow -- if he's any better than today or if he's exactly the same. So we'll give it a couple days and go from there."
Kendrys Morales started at first base on Sunday. Michael Morse can and will play some first base. Wedge can also use Dustin Ackley at first base if needed.
If Smoak were to go on the disabled list, the Mariners would likely call up an outfielder -- Eric Thames or Carlos Peguero -- and then use Morse at first base with Morales. The team has been very cautious about playing Morales too much in the field to keep him healthy.
"We can make that work," Wedge said. "We have some flexibility."
Story tags » Mariners

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