Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — About the time Seattle Mariners fans want to bite their knuckles in frustration and think about football, their team does something to extend the summer.
Like beat Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels, 2-1.
After scoring three times in two losses, Seattle won the series finale Sunday with home runs by Jesus Montero and Carlos Peguero and marvelous pitching from Hisashi Iwakuma.
“This was my third time pitching against them and I wanted to work inside more,” Iwakuma said. “I had good tempo, good command …”
What he had, after 71⁄3 innings, was a shutout.
And two runners on base, 101 pitches thrown, and Most Valuable Player award candidate Mike Trout coming up. Manager Eric Wedge went to the mound, took the ball and waved to his bullpen.
For journeyman Josh Kinney.
No, Kinney doesn’t throw 100 miles per hour, like right-handed teammates Stephen Pryor or Carter Capps. Kinney doesn’t have a half dozen different pitchers, like Erasmo Ramirez.
“He’s been out there at times like that before,” Wedge said of his 33-year-old veteran. “Josh worked very hard this year, most of the time in AAA. That was a huge part of the game and I wanted him in there.”
Kinney came in with a plan.
“I wasn’t going to give Trout anything to pull,” he said. “I wanted him to have to go the other way. I got him to pop up …”
“Well, it traveled – in fact, I couldn’t believe how far it went on what wasn’t a very good swing,” he said of the ball that went to the right field warning track. “He’s got some pop.”
The runners on base each moved up, putting the potential tying run at second with Torii Hunter up.
“We’ve faced each other before, and we know each other, so I wasn’t going to surprise him with anything,” Kinney said. “I threw him a sinker inside, and then I was going to make him hit my slider.”
Hunter hit the slider, a fly ball to center field easily handled by Franklin Gutierrez to end the eighth inning with Seattle still on top, 2-0.
The Mariners had chased Cy Young Award candidate Weaver in the sixth inning, an inning after Dustin Ackley hit him with a line drive high on his right arm.
On the play, Weaver went down, scrambled up but couldn’t throw Ackley out. More important, manager Mike Scioscia and trainer Rick Smith scrambled to the mound to check on the staff ace.
“I’m fine,” Weaver insisted after the game.
Scioscia acknowledged later he wasn’t as certain, and that when he pulled Weaver in the sixth, that line drive “had a lot to do with it.”
Rookie Montero came into the game with the odd stat of having homered in three of his six at-bats against Weaver, and after a second-inning bloop single was four-for-seven against him in his career.
“I can’t explain it, he’s a great pitcher,” Montero said.
When Montero came up again in the fourth inning of a scoreless game, he turned his eighth career at-bat vs. Weaver into – you guessed it – his fourth home run against the Angels ace.
It was Montero’s 15th of the season, hit deep to left-center field.
“I just try to stay up the middle against him, because he throws across his body, and not many guys do that,” Montero said.
An inning later, Peguero came up.
“I faced Weaver last season and he threw me a lot of off-speed stuff, so I told myself to stay back,” Peguero said. “He tried to get me in my first at-bat with a changeup, and I singled.”
This time, he homered a towering shot into right field.
“Changeup,” Peguero said.
It was all the Mariners would score Sunday. When Tom Wilhelmsen gave up one run in the ninth, but picked up his 22nd save, it was enough for the Mariners to bag their 65th victory.
It was also the second time in less than a month that Seattle had beaten Weaver, who is now 16-4 with a 2.86 earned run average. It allowed the Mariners, 29-19 since the All-Star break, to snap a mini-two game losing streak before opening a three-game series today with Boston.
As for Iwakuma, he continues to prove the rotation is where he belongs. In 11 starts, he’s gone 5-2 with a 2.42 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .226 batting average.
“Iwakuma was in command from the first pitch today,” Wedge said. “This might have been the best stuff he’s had all season.”