Iwakuma holds off Halos after Mariners strike early

Iwakuma holds off Halos after Mariners strike early

Iwakuma holds off Halos after Mariners strike early
ANAHEIM -- Hisashi Iwakuma showed Saturday why he was one of the premier pitchers in Japan for much of the past decade as he kept the Angels' potent offense in check while the Mariners snapped a five-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory.

Felix Hernandez couldn't hold a five-run lead on Friday, but Iwakuma fared better after being spotted a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning. The 31-year-old rookie allowed three runs on six hits over seven-plus innings.

Iwakuma said he's getting back to being the pitcher he was in Japan, where he was one of the Pacific League's premier hurlers and the league MVP in 2008.

"This is my style," Iwakuma said through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. "Making a lot of ground balls, keeping the ball low and getting strikes. That's like I used to be, so I was glad to see that."

So were the Mariners, who inserted the veteran into their rotation at midseason and are seeing dividends. Iwakuma is 2-2 with a 3.73 ERA in seven starts and 3-3 with a 4.16 ERA overall after pitching the first three months in long relief.

"This was the first time some of us had a deep look at him and he threw some off-speed pitches on some off counts and kept us off balance," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Later, as we got better looks at him, we hit the ball better.

"We probably squared up five or six baseballs off him, right at fielders," Scioscia said. "That could've made it a little better game early, which would've given us a better chance to get back into it. But he pitched well, threw strikes, got a big lead and he knew what to do with it."

Designated hitter John Jaso led the Mariners' 10-hit attack with a 2-for-4 night that included a home run and two RBIs as he improved his career batting average at Angel Stadium to .475 (19-for-40), the highest mark by any player with at least 30 at-bats at the park since 2010.

"I don't know," Jaso said of his Southern California success. "Maybe it's the weather or something. I do feel comfortable here. I think a lot of it is I have the right mindset when I come here and it helps me be productive."

The Mariners (52-63) raised their record to 2-6 on their current road trip with one game remaining Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

For a second straight night, the Mariners jumped to an early lead. This time it was three runs in the second off Dan Haren as Trayvon Robinson hit a run-scoring single and Dustin Ackley added two more with a bases-loaded single.

Jaso homered for the second straight game, a solo shot in the third that increased his season total to a career-best seven, before Seattle took advantage of three Angels errors to cross the plate three more times in the fourth.

After a couple difficult outings, manager Eric Wedge was pleased to see his young squad get back to playing good baseball across the board.

"When you play like that, you can beat anybody," he said. "The guys did a much better job today overall. It was good to see."

Seattle couldn't make a five-run lead stick in Friday's 6-5 loss, even with Hernandez on the hill, but Iwakuma kept the Angels at bay with just four singles and a walk through the first seven innings until Vernon Wells launched a two-run blast in the eighth to cut the lead to 7-3.

Two double-play balls helped limit Iwakuma's troubles and his only run in the first seven innings came on a Wells' RBI single in the fifth after he issued his lone walk.

Catcher Miguel Olivo had a 2-for-4 night with two runs -- and nearly added a two-run homer in the eighth. But Angels rookie Mike Trout went above the fence in center to rob Olivo, then easily doubled off Eric Thames at first base when Thames got hung up at second after missing the bag on his way back to first.

"I hit it very well, but too high," Olivo said. "But still, it was gone, but he jumped like Spiderman. I'm not the only one. ... It's unbelievable. He jumped high, too. I saw the replay and he jumped like 4 feet up. But it's OK. We won the game, I hit the ball well, Iwakuma pitched a good game. It's day by day. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

Rookie right-hander Stephen Pryor replaced Iwakuma after Wells' home run and struck out Chris Iannetta and Trout on 98-mph heat before getting Albert Pujols to fly out following a single by Torii Hunter to end the eighth with the lead still at 7-3.

Closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who missed Friday's game to fly to Seattle for the birth of his daughter, got back just before the game and gave up a leadoff home run to Kendrys Morales before finishing out the ninth in a non-save situation.

Wilhelmsen admitted he was "running on fumes" after his hectic 48 hours and seeing the birth of his first child.

"I was thinking of her a little bit, but as soon as that home run was hit, that kind of kicked it out of my head a little bit," he said. "I was, 'Oh, we're here to play ball now.' I was a little late [to get going], but luckily it wasn't too costly."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.