Iwakuma, Saunders help Mariners sweep Angels

SEATTLE — Hisashi Iwakuma kept his pitches down and the ball in the ballpark. Most of the time.

Iwakuma (8-4) allowed a solo home run to Mark Trumbo, but kept the Angels to three runs over seven innings as Seattle completed its first sweep of the season by beating the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Sunday.

It was an improvement on a lousy month by the Mariners All-Star, who had allowed at least four runs in each of his previous five starts and 10 home runs over his last four outings.

“He was good. Just a couple bad misses but he was downhill better. He executed pitches better,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.

Following his previous outing — his shortest of the season allowing six runs in three innings against Boston — Iwakuma noted some minor mechanical adjustments he needed to fix to get back on track. Against the Angels, Iwakuma had a better feel for his fastball and was able to mix in his breaking pitches more effectively.

He struck out seven for his first win since June 10.

“Today, overall, I thought I had a better fastball. I had more life with my fastball,” Iwakuma said through a translator. “I was able to make an adjustment. I gave up one home run but then overall I thought I had better command than I did the last couple of starts.”

The day didn’t go nearly as well for Angels starter Joe Blanton.

Blanton (2-12) left the game after allowing the first three runners to reach base in the fifth inning. His four innings pitched was the shortest outing of an already tumultuous season and Blanton appeared to snap in the dugout after coming off the mound in the fourth. Blanton attacked a water cooler and threw it to the ground and appeared to engage in a verbal altercation with catcher Chris Iannetta.

Iannetta called it “a miscommunication” but wouldn’t elaborate on the incident. Blanton was also mum on specifics but chalked it up to frustration.

“Any time things aren’t going good it kind of brings things to a little volcano, a little head, whatever you want to call it,” Blanton said.

“Things aren’t going well. You try and do more out there competing with everything. Things happen. Guys get mad at giving up runs, striking out. It’s part of it sometimes.”

Michael Saunders hit a two-run homer and Raul Ibanez had an RBI double as the Mariners topped Los Angeles for the third straight day.

The Mariners have now homered in 22 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors since Atlanta’s 23-game run in 2006. Seattle’s string is the best by an AL club since Texas set the big league record with 27 in 2002.

Seattle’s long-dormant offense has come alive in recent weeks. They currently lead the majors for home runs in July and are second in batting average and runs scored for the month.

“We’re doing our jobs. We’re getting runners in from third base. We’re moving runners over.” Saunders said. The biggest thing that was lacking was we were taking our walks, we were getting into scoring position but we were missing the two-out hits or the ball in the gap and that’s what we’re starting to do. We’re driving the ball more.”

Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 19th save of the season.

Saunders connected in the second off Joe Blanton (2-12) after Justin Smoak singled. Kyle Seager singled and Smoak walked to lead off the fourth, and a sacrifice fly by Mike Zunino made it 3-0.

Trumbo hit his 21st homer in fifth to put the Angels on the board.

Brad Miller singled, Nick Franklin walked and Ibanez doubled to open the fifth and chase Blanton from the game. Michael Kohn entered and struck out the side to limit the damage for the Angels

Los Angeles rallied in the sixth. Alberto Callaspo hit a two-out single with the bases loaded to score Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick as the Angels pulled within a run.

NOTES: Mariners RHP Stephen Pryor will begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Everett either Monday or Tuesday of this week. He has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a torn back muscle. … Blanton leads the league in losses (12), hits allowed (148) and home runs allowed (23). … Mariners 3B Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Since June 30 Seager is batting .442 with two doubles, five home runs, 10 RBI, eight walks and 16 runs scored. … Angels CF Mike Trout extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He’s batting .417 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, six RBI, five walks and eight runs scored since July 3. … Angels 2B Alberto Callaspo extended his hitting streak to nine games. … Iwakuma is not expected to pitch in the All-Star game Tuesday.

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