Tuesday, July 08, 2014
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Iwakuma, Mariners blank Twins

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[July 08, 2014]  SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma did everything the Seattle Mariners asked of him heading into the seventh inning of Monday night's game against the Minnesota Twins, and then he had to go out and do more.

For the first time all night, Iwakuma pitched his way out of a jam while capping off a solid seven-inning performance that saw him continue his dominance over the Twins. After striking out Minnesota's Sam Fuld to strand runners at second and third base and preserve a two-run lead, Iwakuma let out a rare show of emotion.

"I desperately wanted to get that out there," said Iwakuma, whose seven innings of four-hit baseball led the Mariners to a 2-0 win. "I fought tooth and nail to get it. I was very happy."

Iwakuma (7-4) allowed just four hits and no walks while striking out a season-high 10 batters. Over 33 2/3 career innings against the Twins, Iwakuma has yet to give up an earned run.

A pair of solo home runs was all the offense he needed. Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and right fielder Michael Saunders both went deep on a night when Twins starter Kevin Correia was not quite as good as Iwakuma.

Correia (4-11) turned in one of his better performances of the season, allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings, but he was tagged with his third loss in as many starts.



"Kevin did a fantastic job," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to come through with getting any runs on their guy."

Correia's line could have been even better if not for a two-out Saunders home run in the seventh that grazed the web of center fielder Fuld's mitt in right-center field. Fuld tracked down the towering fly ball and jumped against the wall, appearing to make an improbable catch.

The play was so close that most of the 18,562 fans at Safeco Field watched in silence as Fuld rolled around in pain on the warning track, uncertain of whether he caught the ball. Even Saunders looked back continually as he rounded the bases, not showing any emotion until just before he stepped into the Seattle dugout.

"When he came down (on the warning track), I was not sure what was going on, so I quickened my pace," Saunders said. "That was probably the least celebrated home run I'll ever have. That's a play Sam makes more often than you think, so I was happy to get it."

Gardenhire and a team trainer came out to check on Fuld, who eventually got up under his own power and remained in the game.

"He hit the ground really hard, landing on his hip and his back," Gardenhire said. "He was pretty sore, and it's just one of those things we're going to have to see how he comes in (Tuesday)."

A home run by Zunino in the second inning ended a stretch of 10 consecutive scoreless innings for the Mariners, who lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. In the back-to-back games, Seattle went 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Over a span of 40 innings dating back to Friday night, the Mariners have scored just six total runs -- but they have a 2-2 record to show for it.

Iwakuma was so good that the Mariners (49-40) didn't need much offense. He allowed singles to two of the first six batters he faced but didn't give up another hit until the seventh, when Minnesota (39-49) moved a runner past first for the first time all night.

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Iwakuma didn't have a three-ball count until two batters into the seventh, at which time he was facing his 23rd batter of the night. After a leadoff single by Minnesota first baseman Kendrys Morales and a one-out double by right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, the Twins had their first threat with runners on second and third base.

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon visited the mound but opted to leave Iwakuma in the game. His starter responded by getting a groundout and the inning-ending strikeout before reliever Danny Farquhar took over in the eighth.

"It was his ballgame to win or lose," McClendon said of allowing Iwakuma to finish the seventh. "He's a veteran, his pitch count was manageable, and I just thought it was his game. He deserved it."

Seattle closer Fernando Rodney retired the side in the ninth to record his American League-leading 26th save. He struck out two of the three batters he faced.

The Twins struck out 14 times Monday, with second baseman Brian Dozier and third baseman Trevor Plouffe each recording three strikeouts in Minnesota's seventh shutout loss of the season.

Zunino got the Mariners off to a 1-0 lead with a one-out homer in the second inning. It was Zunino's 13th home run of the season, matching him with third baseman Kyle Seager for the team lead.

NOTES: Mariners 3B Kyle Seager was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his career Monday, when AL manager John Farrell announced he would replace injured Toronto 1B Edwin Encarnacion. Seager will join Seattle teammates Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez, giving Seattle three All-Stars for the first time since 2011. ... Twins RHP Ricky Nolasco was scheduled to return to Minnesota for a Tuesday checkup on a sore right elbow. He allowed six runs in two innings against the New York Yankees on Sunday and complained of arm soreness before Monday's game at Seattle. ... After Monday's game, the Mariners designated C John Buck for assignment. Buck, who was celebrating his 37th birthday, was hitting .226. The Mariners will promote a younger catcher from the minor leagues Tuesday. ... Seattle has not announced a starting pitcher for Thursday's game against the Twins. RHP Felix Hernandez will be moved back in the rotation one day to pitch against Oakland RHP Jeff Samardzija on Friday. RHP Erasmo Ramirez could be called up from Triple-A Tacoma for the Thursday start, or Seattle could return reliever Brandon Maurer to a starting role as a one-game fill-in.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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