MINNEAPOLIS — Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer, Hisashi Iwakuma was hard to hit and the Seattle Mariners beat the stumbling Minnesota Twins 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Iwakuma (5-3) gave up just one hit and one unearned run over six innings in another strong start for the rookie from Japan. The right-hander struck out four and helped send the Twins to their 16th defeat in their last 19 games despite four walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch.
Ackley’s drive off Scott Diamond (10-6) into the flower bed above right-center field followed consecutive singles by Trayvon Robinson and Brendan Ryan to start the fifth. Diamond gave up more than three runs for the first time in seven starts since July 21.
The announced attendance was 29,854, the first sub-30,000 crowd to watch the Twins since Target Field opened in 2010.
The Mariners, who began the day nine games behind in the AL wild-card race, have won 12 of their last 16 games. They have won seven straight against the Twins.
After Ryan Doumit’s RBI double off Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen got the last out of the ninth inning for his 20th save in 23 attempts.
With his unorthodox, halting windup and the exaggerated kick of his right leg before he releases the ball, Iwakuma had the Twins off balance all game. Ben Revere drew a leadoff walk but was immediately erased by a groundball double play, and Robinson made a tricky catch of a long foul ball by Joe Mauer down the left-field line by slamming into the wall and plucking the ball out of the airspace above the seats.
Those good bounces in the first inning set the tone for the rest of his appearance. Iwakuma allowed a run before he surrendered a hit, when consecutive walks to Jamey Carroll and Pedro Florimon set up Revere for a sacrifice fly. Carroll moved up on a wild pitch, and both runners advanced on a passed ball by Miguel Olivo. Not until one out into the fifth did the Twins get a hit, a single by Carroll.
Iwakuma is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his last eight starts. Mariners starters, buoyed by ace Felix Hernandez, who spun a five-hit shutout on Monday, are 19-8 with a 2.74 ERA in the last 37 games. Since the All-Star break they have the second-best ERA in the majors.
Diamond, whose appeal of a six-game suspension meted out by Major League Baseball last week is still pending, lasted only 2 1-3 innings in his last start. He was ejected for throwing a pitch behind Rangers All-Star Josh Hamilton in Texas.
Diamond completed seven innings with seven hits and one walk while striking out two, but he allowed five runs. The left-hander gave up a double to Ryan and walked Franklin Gutierrez with two outs in the third before Kyle Seager’s two-run double put the Mariners on the board. Seager leads the majors with 43 two-out RBIs.