Seattle just went up 6-4 in the eighth inning on an RBI single to right by Dustin Ackley, who has a pair of hits today. Was just down in the clubhouse talking to Hisashi Iwakuma, who said the air was particularly dry today and made it difficult for him to grip the ball. Iwakuma threw 76 pitches over five innings, yielding three runs. He gave up an abundance of fly balls, largely because, as mentioned, he had trouble with his grip and keeping things down in the zone.
Another guy I spoke to was Justin Smoak, who ripped another double and single while batting from the left side. Smoak has made a minor adjustment in recent days after striking out a handful of times. It turns out he was actually seeing the ball a little too well at the plate and it was causing him to want to hack away every time — with lesser results.
“I just needed to back off a bit,” he said.
2:29 p.m.: Lots of scoring to tell you about. The Mariners just scored three in the fifth to go up 3-2, with Brad Miller doing the big damage with a tying two-run double to left-center and then Michael Saunders bringing him home with a single to right. Jesus Montero led things off with a double to right-center hit very well and then Robert Andino walked to put two on.
Oakland had taken the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Derek Norris hit a two-run homer to center off Hisashi Iwakuma.
1:36 p.m.: Tough break for the Mariners in the second inning when center fielder Coco Crisp made a wall-climbing catch on Jesus Montero after a leadoff single ripped to right by Justin Smoak, batting left-handed again. That helped keep the game scoreless after Hisashi Iwakuma battled out of a first inning jam in which the first two batters reached on singles.
But with the middle of the order up, Iwakuma got a flyout to left from Josh Reddick and then a 4-6-3 double play grounder by Seth Smith.
12:55 p.m.: We’re at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, winter home of the Oakland Athletics, where there’s a horde of Japanese writers and photographers around. That can only mean one thing: Hisashi Iwakuma must be pitching for the visitors.
In this case, the Mariners are visiting. In two weeks’ time, these two teams will open the season in Oakland and Iwakuma seems certain to start one of the three games there. This is the fourth start this spring and fifth appearance overall for Iwakuma, who is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. We saw Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan go six innings the past two outings, so we’ll have to see where Iwakuma is at.
Seriously, I think the A’s draw better here in Arizona than they do in Oakland.