By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Things are getting serious these days for the Seattle Mariners; serious enough even to generate a rare flash of emotion Monday night from Hisashi Iwakuma in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota at Safeco Field.
A small flash, to be sure. And easily missed without close attention. But the Mariners’ stoic right-hander pounded his glove after protecting a one-run lead by stranding runners at second and third in the seventh inning.
The Mariners did just enough offensively; they got homers from Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders against Twins starter Kevin Correia (4-11), who yielded just three other hits — all singles in his seventh innings.
Correia deserved better.
Danny Farquhar worked a brisk eighth before Fernando Rodney completed the shutout and pushed his league-leading saves total to 26. The Mariners also moved back to a season-best nine games over .500 at 49-40.
Iwakuma (7-4) handed the two-run lead to Farquhar to start the eighth after stretching his career dominance over the Twins to 33 2⁄3 innings without allowing an earned run over five starts.
His biggest test came in the seventh when, leading 1-0, he yielded a leadoff single to ex-teammate Kendrys Morales on a grounder up the middle that beat the shift.
Morales lumbered to third on Oswaldo Arcia’s double in the right-center gap. Chris Parmelee replaced Morales as a pinch-runner but had to hold on Chris Colabello’s grounder to third.
Iwakuma stranded runners at second and third by striking out Sam Fuld on a full-count splitter. That prompted Iwakuma’s glove-pound. It was also his 10th strikeout, a season best.
He allowed four hits and didn’t walk a batter while throwing 105 pitches.
Saunders’ homer was a two-out drive to center in the seventh and came spiced with drama. Fuld made a leaping attempt at the wall — and it wasn’t initially clear whether he caught the ball or not as he fell to the ground.
There was no signal, either, from second-base umpire Gabe Morales as Saunders hesitantly circled the bases. Eventually, though, Fuld got to his feet … without the ball.
Zunino’s homer, his 13th, was a one-out bomb in the second inning.
Other than that, not much.
James Jones snapped a 0-for-12 skid with a one-out single up the middle in the first inning. Correia then walked Robinson Cano on four pitches.
It came to nothing.
Corey Hart popped out, and Kyle Seager, in his first at-bat since being added to the American League All-Star team, struck out on three pitches.
The Mariners took the lead the following inning when Zunino tagged a full-count fastball for his 13th homer of the season. The ball was a no-doubter to left from the moment of contact.
The chance for more beckoned when Dustin Ackley singled, and Brad Miller walked. But Correia retired Saunders on a fly to left and Jones on a grounder to second.
The Mariners missed another chance in the fifth after Saunders drew a one-out walk and went to third on Cano’s sharp single through the right side.
Correia kept it 1-0 by retiring Hart on a grounder to short. That left the Mariners 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position since Miller’s game-winning double Saturday against the White Sox.