SEATTLE – Hisashi Iwakuma is back on track, and that should create a serious concern for the rest of the American League.
Iwakuma struck out a season-high 10 in seven strong innings, Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders hit solo home runs, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins 2-0 on Monday night.
Iwakuma (7-4) has not allowed an earned run to the Twins in five career starts, which spans 33 2/3 innings.
“My body, physically, I’m feeling really good right now. My arm feels better, too,” said Iwakuma, who started the season on the disabled list and then dealt with neck soreness in June. “Just keeping the ball down and moving to both sides of the plate has helped me a lot.”
After allowing a combined 10 runs in two consecutive starts to close out June, Iwakuma has given up just one in his two outings in July.
“He’s got great stuff,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You watch it up there and he doesn’t really throw the same thing anytime. His ball moves all over the place and his back-door fastball against right-handers when he gets ahead, he can paint. He’s got a great breaking ball, they keep saying it’s like a Frisbee.”
Danny Farquhar bridged the gap to the ninth with a scoreless inning of relief and Fernando Rodney pitched the final frame for his American League-leading 26th save in 28 chances.
Kevin Correia (4-11) was credited for the loss despite allowing only five hits in seven innings. It was the fourth time in the last five starts that the right-hander has left the game with no run support, and the sixth time this season the Twins have not been able to score a run for him.
The Twins struggled just to put the ball in play, tying a season high by striking out 14 times.
“My feeling was it was his ballgame to lose,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of leaving Iwakuma in the tough situation. “He’s a veteran, he’s been pitching well. Pitch count was manageable. I just felt that he should have that opportunity to decide (the outcome).”
Correia faced additional trouble after Zunino’s 396-foot blast to left field in the second as Dustin Ackley singled and advanced on Brad Miller’s one-out walk. Correia was able to retire the next two batters, though, to avoid further damage.
Saunders’ sixth home run of the year was nearly caught by Sam Fuld, but the ball tipped off the top of the center fielder’s glove as he slammed into the fence.
The shutout continues a strong run by Mariners pitching, in which the staff has allowed three runs in 29 innings.