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Iwakuma settles in just when Mariners need him most | Notebook
Hisashi Iwakuma knew going in to this game that he'd have to deliver one of his best mound performances of the season. The Mariners had been...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Hisashi Iwakuma knew going in to this game that he'd have to deliver one of his best mound performances of the season.
The Mariners had been left reeling with eight straight losses after numerous subpar outings in a row by starting pitchers. Iwakuma was naturally a bit worried when he served up a leadoff homer to Jurickson Profar and then another run in his second inning of work.
But he settled down from there for his deepest outing this year and bought his team time to come back.
"It wasn't easy to start the game," Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki, after an eight-inning performance that tied his career best. "The breaking pitches caught the fat part of the plate, but I made a good adjustment after that and I was able to throw more fastballs from the third inning on."
Profar, 20, became the youngest player to lead off a game with a home run since Lou Klimchock of the Kansas City Athletics in 1958.
The Rangers had three hits the first two innings, but only two off Iwakuma over the final six frames he worked. Iwakuma struck out eight, didn't walk anyone and has yet to lose this season when he throws at least 6-1/3 innings — something he's done seven times.
"I had a strong feeling inside that I needed to stop the losing streak," Iwakuma said. "That was one thing that I had in mind."
• The Mariners were a bit short-handed from the left side of their bullpen late, with Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge having worked multiple innings in recent games. So, right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina was left in the game in the 13th to face switch-hitter Profar and left-hander David Murphy.
A key was striking out Profar on a full-count checked swing with a runner on third and only one out.
"I've pitched in that situation a lot," Medina said, through an interpreter. "I always focus on the batter. I try to tune out the runners and focus on the batter and get him out."
Medina did just that, got Murphy on an ensuing ground out and went on to earn his first big league win.
"I don't get to work every day, but when I do get to work it's really important to me that I focus on today, tomorrow and then the next day," he said. "This was a very big win for us, especially with everything that's happened."
• Justin Smoak said his stiff right oblique felt better Sunday. The team will see how he feels Monday before deciding whether he'll have to go on the 15-day disabled list.
Smoak said he had a similar problem with his left oblique during his first season of pro ball, but it felt better after a few days and was worse than this injury.
• Tom Wilhelmsen threw two innings of perfect ball in the ninth and 10th inning to match his longest outing this season. Wilhelmsen has held right-handed hitters hitless in 33 at-bats to start the season, the longest streak in the majors since Joel Pineiro retired 51 in a row to start 2001 for Seattle.