By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
OAKLAND — The search for a series sweep continues for the 2013 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 their best pitcher of late — Hisashi Iwakuma — on the mound in the series finale at O.co Coliseum against the Oakland A’s.
It was the fourth time Seattle had been in this situation. And like at Toronto in early May and recently at home against Chicago and Houston, the Mariners failed in that final game to secure the sweep.
In a season full of brilliance, Iwakuma was suddenly mediocre and the Mariners’ anemic offense couldn’t come to his rescue in a 10-2 loss. Oh, and the bullpen also helped turned a close game into a rout.
The next sweep chance might not be for a while with the Mariners opening a four-game series today in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels.
Sunday was their chance.
They got Joe Saunders’ first road win on Friday, a typical outing from Felix Hernandez on Sunday, but couldn’t get an all-star level start from Iwakuma — their top all-star team candidate.
“It was big a game and (Hernandez) pitched a great game yesterday and I wanted to do the same for the sweep, unfortunately, it didn’t happen,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki.
The right-hander never seemed to have the pinpoint command that has made him so successful this season. He lasted just five innings and gave up four runs on a season-high eight hits. He walked three and struck out three. He fell to 7-2 on the season, while his earned run average rose from 1.79 to 2.06.
“He was up and over the plate a little bit,” 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.
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 walked Jaso in the game.
Iwakuma had runners reach third base in the first three innings, but managed to work out of each jam without allowing a run.
The Mariners proceeded to give him a 2-0 lead, scoring two runs in the top of the second off of A’s starter Bartolo Colon on Endy Chavez’s RBI single. It looked like there might be more, but Kyle Seager’s screaming line drive to right field was somehow caught by Josh Reddick. With Reddick’s cannon arm, Mike Zunino, who was on third base, couldn’t tag up.
“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 off 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 is also good at making in-game adjustments, but he couldn’t seem to find the right one Sunday.
He gave up three straight hits, including an RBI double from Seth Smith and an RBI single from Josh Reddick to start the fourth inning, which tied the game 2-2. It was the first earned run Iwakuma had allowed in 312⁄3 innings pitched.
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.
“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 relievers didn’t respond well. The two-run deficit ballooned to 8-2 in the seventh inning. 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 as Carter Capps gave up a pair of solo homers to Moss and Reddick.