SEATTLE — Hisashi Iwakuma’s pregame neck stiffness was serious enough that he had to call for the training staff. Fortunately for the Seattle Mariners, he found a way to take the mound Sunday.
Iwakuma pitched eight effective innings to help the Mariners stop a five-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers.
“I needed to pitch today. I felt responsible, especially after losing five in a row,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
Kyle Seager had four hits and three RBI for Seattle, continuing his strong play against Texas. Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller also drove in a run each.
Iwakuma allowed one run — on Brad Snyder’s first career home run in the second — and six hits. Charlie Furbush then got three outs to finish the game.
It was quite a turnaround for Iwakuma after he felt stiffness in his neck as he prepared for his ninth start of the season.
“To be honest, yes, as I was playing catch before my bullpen I did feel that way,” Iwakuma said of having doubts he would be able to pitch.
Iwakuma, who didn’t make his first start of the season until May 3 due to a finger injury on his throwing hand, improved to 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in three June starts.
“My body’s starting to get used to season mode and I’m feeling a lot better and stronger now, so I think I’m good to go from here on,” said Iwakuma, who was hopeful his neck wouldn’t be a problem moving forward.
The Mariners left a runner in scoring position in each of the first four innings before Seager drove in Endy Chavez and Robinson Cano with a two-out double in the fifth, lifting Seattle to a 2-1 lead.
“It’s been a little bit of a grind as of late, but before that we were playing really good baseball,” Seager said. “That’s just kind of the way baseball goes. You go from scoring runs all the time to kind of hit a little rough patch, but that’s just kind of one of the things you grind through it.”
Seager added an RBI double in Seattle’s three-run eighth as the Mariners avoided being passed in the standings by the Rangers.
Seager has played well against the Rangers in his career, hitting .338 with 34 extra-base hits and 38 RBI. Seager is hitting .396 (19-for-48) this season against Texas with three home runs and 12 RBI.
Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-4) allowed nine hits and walked one, but held the Mariners to two runs in six innings. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA in his past three starts.
“He found his secondary stuff today,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Threw a lot of changeups, threw some breaking balls. And with Nick, you need all of his pitches to maneuver through the batting order and they did. He made the mistake to Seager but certainly a big improvement.”