Iwakuma strong, but 'pen lets Rangers pile on

Iwakuma strong, but 'pen lets Rangers pile on

Iwakuma strong, but 'pen lets Rangers pile on
ARLINGTON -- After Hisashi Iwakuma kept the potent Rangers offense in check most of Friday night, Texas teed off on Seattle's bullpen with seven runs in the eighth inning en route to a 9-3 win for Yu Darvish.

So while manager Eric Wedge was pleased with his starting pitcher, he left Rangers Ballpark fuming about some sketchy defense and shaky play that resulted in a blowout loss to the American League West leaders.

"There needs to be a lot of focus on that eighth inning, because I can't count how many things we did wrong, which is disappointing at this time of the year," Wedge said. "Defensively, pitch selection, just making plays in general. It sped up on some of our younger kids.

"Things that just can't happen, especially when you're playing a team like Texas that is a good club playing good baseball. When you do that, they're going to run over you, and that's what happened tonight."

That wreck happened late on the cool, rainy evening at Rangers Ballpark, after Darvish outdueled his friend and countryman Iwakuma as the two former Japanese standouts matched up in the Major Leagues for the first time.

Until the Rangers broke the game open in the eighth, the difference was a pair of solo home runs from Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton off Iwakuma that staked Darvish to an early lead.

Darvish, 26, sailed through seven innings on two hits and one run, using an assortment of offspeed pitches in the mid-60 mph to supplement a 93-94-mph fastball and tough slider as he racked up nine strikeouts and improved to 15-9 with a 4.02 ERA.

Iwakuma pitched pretty well against the Rangers' loaded lineup, giving up just two runs on seven hits before getting lifted after 5 1/3 innings and 88 pitches. The 31-year-old rookie is 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts since joining the rotation in midseason. Two of those losses have come against Texas.

"Their lineup is really tough, more than other teams," Iwakuma said through translator Daisuke Sekiba. "So I really concentrated for this game and was very energized to pitch. I got hit by two home runs, but I tried to keep pitching and just minimize the damage. Of course Darvish did a good job for the game entirely, so I just hung in there."

It was Darvish's third straight game with seven-plus innings and three or fewer hits, tying Nolan Ryan's record for the Rangers from 1990.

Darvish struck out nine, with four of those coming on the mid-60s curveball. Kyle Seager had two doubles in a 2-for-4 night, but was one of the victims of Darvish's tantalizing slow ball in the sixth.

"We had it in the report and you see it, but it's a tough pitch," said Seager. "It's something you're not used to, especially with a guy throwing up in the mid-90s. It definitely throws your timing off a little bit, and he used it real well. He located real well with it. He didn't waste too many of them. When he threw them, he threw them with a purpose."

Seattle's bullpen kept the game close for a while after Iwakuma's exit, until Texas broke things open against three Seattle relievers in the eighth with an RBI double by Hamilton, an unearned run on a bases-loaded throwing error home by second baseman Dustin Ackley, a two-run double by Geovany Soto and a three-run triple by Elvis Andrus.

Right fielder Carlos Peguero didn't break well on Hamilton's double, and Ackley's throw bounced and catcher Jesus Montero was unable to keep his foot down on the plate for the critical force.

"We have seen good defense all year, but we've got some young players who haven't been in there a great deal and some young pitchers," Wedge said. "You can't take anything for granted. I'm disappointed. But I'm proud of the way our kids have played defense all year long, so we'll pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and come back here tomorrow and play better baseball."

The Mariners totaled just two hits until breaking loose for a pair of runs and four hits in the ninth as they fell to 69-76 on the season. The Rangers improved to 86-58, including an 8-6 mark against Seattle.

Michael Saunders unleashed his 15th home run leading off the ninth against Michael Kirkman, and Montero pushed an RBI single to left before Kirkman finished things off. Montero also had Seattle's first RBI with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Kinsler went deep leading off the Rangers' first, though it took an umpire's review after his drive to left-center initially was ruled a double. But replays clearly showed the ball ricocheting off a chair in the Mariners' bullpen and bouncing back onto the field, so the second baseman was awarded his 17th home run.

"I knew it was out," said Saunders, who was in center field. "It bounced right back to me on the fly. I tried to play it off, but with video replays these days, we're not going to get away with it. I knew it was out."

Hamilton needed no review for his solo shot in the third, as the lefty unleashed a first-pitch bomb into the upper deck in right. The 417-foot home run was Hamilton's 42nd of the year, and he increased his RBI total to 123 by game's end, both tops in the AL.

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.