SEATTLE (AP) — While Hisashi Iwakuma felt his command was terrible, the results looked awfully familiar.
Iwakuma pitched seven innings of one-run ball despite some trouble with his off-speed repertoire, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth straight victory.
Iwakuma (10-6) allowed just five hits despite struggling to throw strikes with his curveball and slider, and got a boost from Mike Zunino’s three-run homer in the fifth.
“I think through my experience not only here but back in Japan too, I’ve been in the game a long time and I think experience has a big thing to do with today’s result,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
Iwakuma became the third Seattle pitcher to reach double-digit victories this season. The right-hander said he had no feel for his off-speed pitches and his most important pitch, the splitter, was not diving as it usually does. But he still managed to strike out three without a walk.
Iwakuma improved to 5-2 with a 2.04 ERA in his last eight starts. He has pitched at least seven innings in his last seven outings.
“I didn’t have command of each of my pitches. I was able to execute when I needed to but that’s how it was,” Iwakuma said.
Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 32nd save in 35 opportunities as Seattle remained a half-game behind Kansas City for the second wild card in the American League.
Zunino moved into a tie for the major league lead in home runs by a catcher with his 18th of the season. Zunino’s opposite-field drive to right off Jose Quintana gave Seattle a 3-1 lead and came after Chicago third baseman Conor Gillaspie dropped a popup from Logan Morrison. Kendrys Morales added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
“That’s where I really want to drive the ball when I’m feeling good,” Zunino said. “I was able to get a good fastball on a 2-0 count and barrel it up.”
Dayan Viciedo continued his success against Seattle with an opposite-field homer on the first pitch he saw from Iwakuma in the fourth, but that accounted for all of Chicago’s offense. The White Sox have lost four straight and six of seven.
“Everything we’re going through, it’s just like you’re in a funk,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “If it can go wrong, it’s going to go wrong.”
Quintana (6-8) retired 12 of his first 14 batters before falling apart in the fifth when Seattle sent nine batters to the plate. Chris Denorfia walked on four pitches to start the inning, followed by Gillaspie’s error. Quintana fell behind Zunino and left a fastball elevated on the outer half of the plate.
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