April 2, 2013 at 6:50 PM
Game thread: Mariners 6, Athletics 1, top 9th
The Mariners just pushed a key fifth run across in the seventh to go ahead 5-1 and they did it without the benefit of a hit. The Mariners drew consecutive walks and then Michael Morse was hit by a pitch. One out later, Justin Smoak drew another walk — all of them by Ryan Cook — and the run was in.
8:40 p.m.: Kyle Seager put together a solid at-bat with two out and none on in the fifth and wound up drilling a double to left center. That was big because Kendry Morales came up next and delivered his first hit as a Mariner — an RBI single up the middle that gives Seattle a 4-1 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth. Hisashi Iwakuma has given up just two hits so far and has struck out four batters in four innings.
8:20 p.m. The power switch just got flicked on by Michael Morse and the Mariners, who now lead it 3-1 after scoring three times in the top of the third on their first extra-base hit of the year. Morse worked a long, tough at-bat against Jarrod Parker, then drilled a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall for an opposite field home run. Right fielder Josh Reddick nearly killed himself climbing the wall in an attempt to get to it and is lucky his beard didn’t get caught in something on the way down.
Anyhow, the Mariners certainly made Parker work that inning, with Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager drawing a pair of full-count walks. The A’s had taken a second inning lead off Hisashi Iwakuma when Yoenis Cespedes crushed a solo homer over the center field wall. It was the second homer in five at-bats for Cespedes against Iwakuma. We wrote pre-game that this is a matchup worth watching and it isn’t done yet.
6:50 p.m.: Hisashi Iwakuma made only 16 starts for the Mariners last year and now, he’s their No. 2 starter. That alone tells you why nobody is picking this team as a World Series favorite, even if they do look improved over last season.
The four starting pitchers after Felix Hernandez will be closely scrutinized until they can show that all the concern is frivolous. Of the four, no one has as many expectations on him as Iwakuma does. If he can’t keep balls down and get hitters to swing and miss, this rotation could be in serious trouble.
If Iwakuma does do what he finished off last season showing signs of, then the Mariners will have two starters they can count on, then just need a break or two here and there with the other guys to avoid disaster.
Iwakuma was 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in two outings against Oakland last season. In his one start against them last September, he gave up six runs — five earned — in just 3 2/3 innings, giving up a three-run homer that day. Home runs can be a problem for Iwakuma, so, as stated, he has to keep the ball down. Yoenis Cespedes is 2-for-4 with a homer off him, so keep an eye on that matchup.