SEATTLE – Hisashi Iwakuma turned in the kind of performance on Monday designed to thrill the home crowd – at least that portion not rooting vociferously for the visiting team.
In front of a Safeco Field crowd heavily populated with Blue Jays fans, Iwakuma turned in the best start of his brief Mariners career as Seattle defeated Toronto, 4-1, for its fifth straight victory.
Facing the leading run-scoring team in the major leagues, Iwakuma struck out 13 in eight innings to set the Mariners’ single-game rookie record for whiffs. The previous record of 12 was held by an elite trio: Mark Langston (three times), Randy Johnson and Freddy Garcia.
Iwakuma’s strikeout list included Brett Lawrie four times. After the third one, Lawrie broke his bat over his knee in frustration.
Lawrie also had an error that led to a Mariner run in the second inning. Iwakuma matched Felix Hernandez’s team-high 13 strikeouts from June 29 against Boston.
Josh Kinney and Lucas Luetge worked the ninth, as Tom Wilhelmsen was absent to be with his wife, due with their first child. Kinney added two more strikeouts, giving the Jays 15 whiffs on the night, before Luetge got the final out for his first career save.
The Mariners, trying to resurrect what once seemed to be a lost season, are 12-6 since the All-Star break.
Iwakuma got off to an inauspicious start when leadoff hitter Rajai Davis started the game with a homer to left, much to the jubilation of the Blue Jays fans.
But Iwakuma settled down to blank the Jays through the eighth inning.
The Mariners, meanwhile, took the lead in the first and never gave it up. Dustin Ackley led off with a double against Jays starter Ricky Romero, an All-Star last year who has now lost seven straight decisions.
He moved to third on a Michael Saunders bunt single. With Saunders stealing, Jesus Montero hit a shot that hit second-base umpire Tony Randazzo, who never had a chance to move.
Ackley crossed the plate, but was sent back to third on what was ruled a dead ball. Randazzo remained in the game.
That left the bases loaded, and Ackley came home when John Jaso grounded into a double play. Kyle Seager then delivered a single to score Saunders – his 37th two-out RBI, most in the American League.
Mike Carp singled with one out in the second and moved around the bases with help from the Blue Jays. He went to second on a wild pitch, third on a passed ball, and home when Lawrie boxed a hard grounder from Brendan Ryan.
The final Mariners run came on fifth-inning doubles by Ryan and Michael Saunders.
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