Iwakuma, Mariners stop Twins, 8-2
Seattle Times staff reporter
Minnesota @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Being in charge of the Mariners’ infield, in addition to his new duties as acting manager while Eric Wedge convalesces, Robby Thompson was somewhat conflicted on Thursday.
On the one hand, he was obviously delighted with the Mariners’ 8-2 win over the Twins at Safeco Field, their ninth victory in 10 games.
On the other hand, it galled Thompson that the Mariners’ infield committed three errors, not to mention a couple of other less-than-stellar plays.
So while Thompson praised Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma for bailing out the Mariner defenders during his stout six-inning stint, he also made it clear that the M’s need to clean up their defense.
“I think we were a little bit lackadaisical tonight in the infield,’’ he said. “When you get situations where there’s three ground balls for double plays, and Iwakuma gets them, they should be turned.
“I’m not frustrated; I think they need to be turned. They know that. I’ve already talked to them about it. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes we don’t have an answer for it. We’ll tighten that up tomorrow.”
The Mariners had 11 hits, seven for extra bases to match their season high. The biggest blow was a three-run homer in the second inning by Nick Franklin off short-lived Twins starter Kevin Correia, who didn’t make it out of the inning.
The Mariners scored six in the second as they blasted three doubles and three singles in addition to Franklin’s eighth homer. The last American League rookie second baseman to reach eight homers in his first 49 games was Joe Gordon in 1938, according to Baseball Reference play index.
Franklin connected on an 0-2 pitch.
“Honestly, 0-2, I was just trying to make contact and put the ball in play,’’ Franklin said. “The infield was in and I was looking to get the ball in the air and get that run in somehow.”
Dustin Ackley had a big game, as well, banging out two of the Mariners’ six doubles along with a single. Ackley, who drove in two runs, is 8 for 19 (.421) since the All-Star break.
“I’ve just continued to work in the cage and continued to get my confidence where it needs to be,’’ Ackley said. “I’m going up there with the mentality that I’m going to get a hit every time, and that’s really what separates me now from me before.”
Iwakuma, meanwhile, continued his career-long dominance of the Twins. He has faced them four times and won all four. Iwakuma (10-4) has not allowed an earned run against Minnesota in 262 / 3 innings.
In this one, he blanked the Twins on four hits over six innings, striking out nine. The Twins were without three-time batting champion Joe Mauer, who is on paternity leave after his wife gave birth to twin girls on Wednesday.
Besides the defense, about the only unsettling note for the Mariners came when catcher Mike Zunino had to leave the game after the fourth inning. He was taken out for precautionary reasons after taking a foul ball off his left wrist. X-rays were negative, and Zunino will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Iwakuma was undeterred by the Mariners’ three errors, two by third baseman Kyle Seager and one by Franklin.
He worked out of several jams, most notably in the third, when the Twins loaded the bases with one out, helped by a Seager miscue. Iwakuma struck out Trevor Plouffe and got Clete Thomas on a ground out.
“A lot of times you have infielders or outfielders pick up the pitcher; well, he definitely picked up our infield tonight,’’ Thompson said of Iwakuma.
Said Iwakuma, through his interpreter: “Well, you know, stuff like that happens in this game. It’s the long course of a season. When stuff like that happens, you just have to go from there and see how much you can cover up as a pitcher. That’s what I had in mind.”