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Saturday, May 11, 2013 - Page updated at 11:30 p.m.
Mariners enjoy 6-3 victory over Oakland as Iwakuma again impresses
By Joshua Mayers
Seattle Times staff reporter
Hisashi Iwakuma was barely hittable with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand.
The thought of what the Mariners' starting pitcher will do now that it's fully healed for the first time since spring training? Well, that could be a frightening prospect, and the Oakland Athletics got a taste of it Friday.
Iwakuma retired 16 batters in a row at one point, and Raul Ibanez launched a three-run home run in a rare start as Seattle cruised past the struggling A's, 6-3, to open a three-game series in front of 25,509 at Safeco Field.
"My finger is good now," Iwakuma said through an interpreter. "It's all healed up, and I was able to pitch my game."
And what a dazzling one it was for the Mariners (17-19) in their eighth win in 11 games.
Iwakuma, who was given the gift of an early lead, allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings to improve to 4-1. The 32-year-old right-hander walked none and struck out nine as his earned-run average actually rose slightly to 1.74 — a backhanded example of this season's dominance
"He's so consistent," Ibanez said of his teammate. "He goes out there and gives you a great outing every time. He's a great pitcher, a lot of fun to play behind."
Iwakuma got his best run support since his first start of the season, and he wouldn't need much. The Tokyo native, after allowing a leadoff single to ex-Mariners catcher John Jaso, didn't concede another base runner until he was up 6-0 with one out in the sixth inning.
That breakthrough came on an infield single by Eric Sogard and would lead to Oakland's first two runs, as Jaso singled behind him and Jed Lowrie later brought both home with a double to right.
It marked the first earned runs at home for Iwakuma in 20-1/3 innings, dating to April 12.
"What you like to see is him come back and get us back in the dugout after that, and he kept going," said manager Eric Wedge. "He pitches with a lot of experience out there. You can tell in the way he handles himself."
The A's added a run in the eighth on a solo home run by Derek Norris off relief pitcher Oliver Perez, but Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen finished the job to earn his 10th save in as many opportunities.
Oakland (18-19) has lost five in a row and 15 of its last 21 since a 12-4 start.
The Mariners raced out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, fueled by a run-scoring single by Michael Morse and an RBI double by Justin Smoak.
Ibanez then added needed insurance in the third inning with a three-run blast to right field to make it 5-0. It was the third home run of the year for the veteran outfielder, who was making just his second start since April 27 and came into the game batting .180 in 61 at-bats.
"You just keep working; you keep fighting," said Ibanez, who has 69 career home runs at Safeco, the most of any player. "It's more a mindset than anything else — staying positive and expecting good things to happen. Fortunately it worked out tonight."
Kendrys Morales made it 6-0 in the fifth inning with a double to deep right-center that scored Kyle Seager, who reached base four times (two singles, two walks) and scored three runs.
Oakland starter Dan Straily (1-1) took the loss, allowing six earned runs on six hits and four walks before being pulled with no outs in the sixth.
Wedge called his team's offensive production "more sporadic — in a positive way. It's not just one guy or a couple of guys. ... When you start doing that, then things really start to come together."
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @joshuamayers
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