By Tim Booth Associated Press
SEATTLE — Hisashi Iwakuma retired 16 straight over one stretch of a solid seven-inning outing, Raul Ibanez homered for the first time in nearly a month and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.
Iwakuma (4-1) took a one-hitter into the sixth inning before running into trouble, putting together another impressive outing to help cement himself and Felix Hernandez as one of the top rotation duos in baseball. Iwakuma has allowed five earned runs over his last five starts, and the number could have been even smaller if not for a scoring change that ended up tagging him with two earned runs against the A’s.
Iwakuma pitched ahead nearly from the start after Seattle scored twice in the first off Oakland starter Dan Straily (1-1). Seattle broke the game open with Ibanez’s three-run homer in the third inning that came with two outs.
Oakland lost its season-high fifth straight and dipped below .500 since starting the season 1-2. The A’s fell to 2-6 on their current 10-game road trip and only once has Oakland scored more than three runs.
Overshadowed by Hernandez, the ace of the Mariners staff, Iwakuma has been nearly as solid this season. He’s pitched at least six innings in seven of eight starts despite being bothered by a lingering blister on his pitching hand, and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any start.
Iwakuma gave up a solid leadoff single to right field to John Jaso and then was unhittable for the next five innings. He set down 15 straight with remarkable ease, through a combination of broken bats, weak groundballs and lazy flies. He struck out Yoenis Cespedes to close the first, struck out Derek Norris and Jaso in the third and retired Josh Donaldson and Daric Barton swinging to end the fifth.
Iwakuma’s streak finally ended at 16 straight retired when Eric Sogard reached on an infield single — originally ruled an error — with one out in the sixth inning. His groundball bounced off the arm of shortstop Brendan Ryan and Sogard reached without a throw. Jaso followed with a bloop single, and the A’s finally got to Iwakuma on Jed Lowrie’s two-out, two-run double into the right-field corner. Lowrie had just one RBI in his previous 17 games before the double.
The scoring change cost Iwakuma a chance to have his ERA dip below Hernandez’s for the best in the American League. Instead, Iwakuma’s ERA rose from 1.61 to 1.74. He gave up four hits, struck out nine and walked none. Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the ninth for his 10th save.
Making just his fourth start, Straily struggled to get through five innings, but didn’t get help from his defense starting in the first inning that led to two runs. Kendrys Morales’ chopper to the left side bounced past both third baseman Josh Donaldson and Lowrie at shortstop to put runners at the corners with one out instead of a possible inning-ending double play. Michael Morse followed with an RBI single and Justin Smoak lined an RBI double to give Iwakuma an early lead.
Seattle’s runs in the third also came thanks to a fortunate bounce. Seager reached on an infield single that spun awkwardly off the end of his bat. Straily gave up a two-out walk to Smoak that proved costly when Ibanez turned on a 1-1 pitch for his third homer of the season and first since April 14.