OAKLAND, Calif. – Hisashi Iwakuma’s sore neck nearly prevented the Mariners pitcher from making his scheduled start and continued to bother him throughout the night.
The Mariners gave their right-hander two big reasons to stick it out – a pair of long home runs by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
Another stellar outing from Seattle’s bullpen helped, too.
Iwakuma pitched into the sixth inning for his 14th win and the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Saturday night for their seventh victory in eight games.
“I was OK to go today, but as the game progressed I started to feel stiffness,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “My body was starting to fly open. I wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be. I kind of felt that throughout the third, fourth, fifth inning, but I was able to get out of jams.”
Iwakuma (14-7) allowed three runs on nine hits for his eighth win in the last nine starts. He struck out two and didn’t walk a batter for the fifth time this season.
Four Seattle relievers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Edwin Diaz retired three batters for his sixth save.
“Our bullpen was outstanding,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Very, very good and they needed to be tonight. We didn’t have much room for error. That’s a good formula for a win.”
A day after squandering several scoring opportunities, the Mariners stranded two runners in the first and another in the third before breaking through.
Cruz hit his 29th home run leading off the fourth inning. Seth Smith singled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the fifth and Cano hit the next pitch from Kendall Graveman (8-8) over the center-field wall for his 26th homer.
“We have guys that can hit line drives also but homers are good, too,” Cruz said. “Whatever way you can score runs, they’re welcome.”
Khris Davis homered for the second consecutive day while Coco Crisp and Billy Butler had three hits apiece for Oakland.
Graveman allowed four runs over six innings and lost for the second time in his past 14 starts. He was pulled after 79 pitches.
“This year is a lengthy one for him so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to cut it short,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, explaining his decision to pull Graveman. “We had some good performances out of the bullpen. We had some guys rested come in.”
Davis closes in on 30 homers
Davis hit his 29th homer leading off the sixth, extending his career-high pace. What’s most impressive is that 16 of Davis’ home runs have come at the spacious Coliseum, normally considered a pitcher’s park.
“He’s making the Coliseum look like a hitter’s park,” Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said. “You’re always making sure you’re watching when he’s at the plate.”
Mariners: Wade LeBlanc (1-0) makes his seventh start in the series finale on Sunday. The lefty last started against Oakland on Sept. 23, 2014.
Athletics: RHP Zach Neal (2-1) faces the Mariners for the second time this season. His only loss of the year came against Seattle on May 25 when he allowed seven runs in four innings.
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