SEATTLE--On a night when his bobblehead found the hands of the first 20,000 spectators at Safeco Field, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a nearly flawless game.
He was not named an All-Star this year, but he looked like one. Iwakuma mostly breezed through 82/3 innings, muzzling an A's offense that is one of the best in baseball, and driving the Seattle Mariners to a 6-2 victory Saturday in front of 39,204 people.
He dazzled from his first few pitches, striking out the first three A's he faced, and establishing a tone that would last through the night. Iwakuma showed once more why the Mariners are legitimate playoff contenders--and why they could be so dangerous if they do find themselves in a playoff series.
In his past three starts, Iwakuma has gone at least six innings, recorded at least seven strikeouts and given up one run or less. And it happened again on a night when the Mariners' offense, dormant for the past week or so, scored more than three runs for the first time in eight games.
Iwakuma's only blemish came when he gave up a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth inning that cut the Mariners' lead to 6-2 and snapped his streak of 20 scoreless innings. When manager Lloyd McClendon came to get Iwakuma after that home run, he walked off the field to a loud standing ovation.
Other than the ninth inning, though, Iwakuma's only real danger, if you can even call it that, came in the second inning. That's when he gave up back-to-back singles with one out.
But Iwakuma cleaned up his own mini-mess by striking out the next two hitters. He retired the A's in order in six different innings, and he had them so off balance for most of the night that they rarely hit any balls hard.
He was so good that the offense just had to show up, and the Mariners would be fine.
Corey Hart and Dustin Ackley teamed to give the Mariners an early lead. Hart got his first extra-base hit in 26 at-bats when he doubled off the wall in the second inning. Ackley drove him in with a single one batter later to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. It was Ackley's first RBI in eight games.
It could have been more. Brad Miller and Endy Chavez followed with two-out walks to load the bases, but the inning came to an end when James Jones grounded out.
Kyle Seager gave Iwakuma some wiggle room in the fifth inning when he crushed a two-run homer, his 15th of the season. That gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead.
That extra padding came without Miller, the starting shortstop. Miller was ejected in the fourth inning after getting called out on strikes. Replays showed the pitch was borderline, and Miller said a few words to home plate umpire Bob Davidson as he stood at the plate. He took a few steps toward the dugout, turned and smiled over his shoulder, with Davidson looking on and trailing Miller. That's when Davidson ejected him.
Robinson Cano provided the night's cherry with a three-run homer in the eighth inning with two outs, his seventh home run of the season.
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