Iwakuma's great effort not enough in rubber match

Seven strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings offset by Orioles' leadoff homer

Iwakuma's great effort not enough in rubber match

BALTIMORE -- Hisashi Iwakuma hadn't lost on the road in more than a year. Chris Tillman had never lost to the Mariners anywhere.

Something had to give Sunday at Camden Yards, and that something turned out to be Iwakuma, who gave up a home run to Nick Markakis leading off the game and wound up on the short end of a 1-0 decision to Tillman and the Orioles.

"The home run, first inning, first hitter, that cost me the whole game when you look at it at the end," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "That's a tough at-bat. He was battling me pretty much every at-bat. He won the battle today."

Iwakuma had gone 9-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his last 14 road starts, not losing a game away from Safeco Field since July 4, 2013. The nine consecutive victories tied Jamie Moyer for the second-longest run of road wins in franchise history, behind only Freddy Garcia's 10 wins in 2000-01, and it was the longest active streak in the Majors.

But Markakis greeted Iwakuma with a soaring home run to right field, driving a 3-2 splitter over the concourse to Eutaw Street outside Camden Yards, and that was enough for the American League East-leading O's as Tillman threw seven scoreless innings.

It was just the ninth time in Mariners history where the only run scored in a 1-0 loss came on a home run, and the first time when that home run came on the first batter in the game. It was also the first time in Orioles history they ever won a 1-0 game on a leadoff long ball.

"I don't think one pitch will win or lose a ballgame for you," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There are several things that go on in a course of a game where you didn't execute or they executed better. It was a tough ballgame. My guys battled, we barreled some balls right at people. That's just the way it goes."

But on this day, that one pitch was the only one that resulted in any scoring, as Iwakuma left his normally wicked splitter up enough for Markakis to crush his first career leadoff home run.

"I was looking for a ball up in the zone," said Markakis. "Last time I faced him, it was a lot of splits down. That's the kind of pitcher he is. You've got to wait him out and get him up in the zone, and when he's up in the zone, don't miss it."

Iwakuma has the lowest walk ratio in the AL this season, which is one of the reasons he's so tough. But this time it cost him, as Markakis found a pitch in the zone he could drive.

"You don't want to walk the guy [on the full count], so obviously you want to throw a strike," Iwakuma said. "He just put a good swing on it."

"I would have liked it down a little bit more," said catcher Mike Zunino. "He left it up a hair. But we both had the idea we didn't want to walk him and just wanted to throw the split for a strike. He just left it up a little."

Iwakuma surrendered just five hits in 7 2/3 innings, with Markakis getting three of those, but he saw his record fall to 9-6 with a 2.94 ERA. Iwakuma walked two batters and struck out seven, putting his season total at 101 strikeouts and 11 walks in 18 outings.

"Obviously you don't want to give up the home run," Iwakuma said. "But when you do, you want to kind of start over from there. And I did. I thought I did a pretty good job. But when a run like that costs you, it's tough. Because today was a day, being a starter, that you don't want to lose."

Runs have been hard to come by for the Mariners, particularly of late. Seattle has been held to two or fewer runs in 16 of 26 games since July 4, and the team is 1-15 in those games. The Mariners are 10-16 overall in that span, putting them at 57-54, tied with the Royals and Yankees at two games back of Toronto in the chase for the final AL Wild Card spot.

The Mariners went 2-5 against Baltimore over the past two weeks, though they were outscored just 18-14 in two tight series against the AL East leaders.

"You lose any series, it's disappointing," McClendon said. "They're a dangerous ballclub, no question about it. They hit a lot of home runs. But we played them seven games and I thought we played them pretty darn good. I don't think their offense extended us at any point in any game. We pitched them pretty good."

Scoring was another issue, as the Mariners endured their 14th shutout of the season. Seattle's lone threat came in the second when they put runners on first and third with one out, but Zunino and Brad Miller went down on strikes and Tillman proceeded to retire 14 straight batters before Kendrys Morales led off the seventh with a base hit.

"I had a shot at him and just didn't get the job done with a runner on third and less than two outs," said Zunino. "That wasn't good situational hitting there. But it was one of those things where he did enough to keep guys off balance."

Tillman, acquired by the Orioles from Seattle as part of the Adam Jones-for-Erik Bedard deal in 2008, improved to 8-5 with a 3.78 ERA this season as he scattered four hits -- all singles -- with no walks and six strikeouts before turning the game over to his bullpen. He's now 6-0 with a 2.03 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners.

Seattle finished its road trip at 3-3 and heads back to Safeco Field for a nine-game homestand starting Tuesday against the Braves.

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.