Ackley, Iwakuma lead Mariners past Minnesota
Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer and Hisashi Iwakuma allowed one hit in six innings as the Mariners won their second straight game.
Special to The Seattle Times
M's @ Minnesota,
5:10 p.m., ROOT
MINNEAPOLIS — Too bad for the Mariners that Hisashi Iwakuma will be a free agent after this season. They've discovered another reliable starting pitcher just in time to perhaps say goodbye to him.
Granted, Iwakuma faced the worst team in the American League on Tuesday night at Target Field. But on a night he struggled to throw strikes, Iwakuma still held the Minnesota Twins to one hit over six innings. And that meant everything to a Mariners team that suddenly sees .500 through the clouds of a dismal season.
Four relievers finished up Iwakuma's 5-2 victory, his third in his last four starts and the Mariners' second straight here after being swept last weekend in Chicago. At 63-67, the Mariners can move closer to .500 than any time since April 30 by winning the final two games of this series Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon — unthinkable for a team that stood 36-52 on July 13.
"We were a long ways out," said Dustin Ackley, who contributed a three-run homer in the fifth that sunk the Twins. "After we had a couple of those winning streaks, and started hitting really well, I think it was in everybody's mind. The more we won, the more we believed we could do that.
"I think everybody right now is feeling great about our chances of getting back to .500, possibly better."
Iwakuma (5-3, 3.40 ERA), working on a one-year contract, made it possible with a flawed yet effective enough outing.
Unable to adjust to the slope of the mound, Iwakuma put the leadoff man on in four of six innings via three walks and a hit batsman. Yet he held the Twins hitless for 4-1/3 innings, two outs longer than Felix Hernandez did the night before, before Jamey Carroll singled to center. Iwakuma grimaced when the ball fell. Mariners manager Eric Wedge pulled Iwakuma after 92 pitches, well short of his season high 109 on July 30 against Toronto.
"He did it the hard way," Wedge said. "He was erratic. He really had to work for it, but he did a good job keeping us where we needed to be. We went to the bullpen because we felt like he'd done enough."
Kyle Seager put the Mariners ahead in the third with a two-out, two-run double off Twins starter Scott Diamond, still pitching while appealing a six-game suspension for throwing at Josh Hamilton of Texas last week
Seager swung and missed the first two pitches, then worked the count to 2-2 as Diamond kept pumping fastballs. Finally Seager drove one to right-center for his 52nd and 53rd road RBI of the season, breaking a tie with Hamilton and the injured Mark Teixeira of the Yankees for the major-league lead.
The Twins scored without a hit in the third, in part due to catcher Miguel Olivo's odd passed ball. With two on, Olivo muffed a called strike after Ben Revere pulled his bat back after squaring to bunt.
Then in the fifth, Trayvon Robinson singled leading off and stole second as Diamond bounced a 1-2 pitch. Robinson hesitated on Brendan Ryan's clean line single to center and only reached third, but Ackley drove a three-run homer over the scoreboard in right-center for a 5-1 lead.
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen had to come on for the last out after Ryan Doumit singled in a run against Charlie Furbush. A walk to Trevor Plouffe brought up Carroll, homerless on the season, as the tying run at the plate, and Carroll lined out to right.
"The mainstay has been the rotation," said Ryan, who doubled twice among three hits. "You've seen guys in the bullpen establish themselves, mainly Tommy in the closer's role.
"The big thing has been the offense scratching runs. It's a huge tip of the hat to the pitching, and it's got to be encouraging for our coaching staff and front office to see what some of these young guys have done offensively."