The double-rock and double-leg kick continue to be double trouble for opponents.
Hisashi Iwakuma moved to 4-1 thanks to another potent outing and a three-run homer from Raul Ibañez in the Seattle Mariners’ 6-3 win over the sinking Oakland Athletics on Friday night at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma lurches and jerks like a sputtering automobile when throwing to the plate. He steps back with his left foot and rocks his hips before curling that leg in front of him and adding an extra hitch.
His fastball travels around 91 mph. His off-speed pitches dive and veer, often dipping into the dirt. Combined, the mix has made his second season with the Mariners an ongoing treat.
“He’s smart,” Ibañez, who went 1-for-5 against Iwakuma in 2012 while with the Yankees, said.
Iwakuma allowed a lead-off single to former Mariners teammate John Jaso, then retired 16 consecutive batters. Bad luck and a double produced two runs for Oakland in the sixth off Iwakuma, but that was all he allowed in his seven innings. His ERA is 1.74.
Ibañez said even at the major league level, those subtle delays make an at-bat a bit more difficult. Seattle manager Eric Wedge touted Iwakuma’s ability to repeat his delivery and release point, seemingly all the more difficult with the extra movement.
His delivery, Iwakuma says, has always been natural.
“That’s my natural form,” Iwakuma said. “That’s how I time myself to pitch every pitch. That’s something I feel very comfortable in doing, and I’ve been doing this a long time.”
Early run support made him the winner.
Justin Smoak rallied from an 0-1 count to 2-2 before pulling a double to right field to score Kendrys Morales in the first. A gracious bounce put Morales on base.
Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson cut in front of shortstop Jed Lowrie on his way to Morales’ bounding grounder. He missed and blocked Lowrie, which enabled the ball to bounce into left field. Instead of a double play, Morales jogged down to first and Kyle Seager motored to an unmanned third base.
Michael Morse then broke an 0-for-10 slump with a single up the middle to score Seager. The Mariners led 2-0 at the end of the first.
A second quality at-bat from Smoak set up Ibañez. Down 0-1 in the count, Smoak worked his way back and drew a walk.
Ibañez left two runners on in his first at-bat when he grounded out to short on the first pitch. This time, he wiped the bases clean with a three-run homer, his third of the season. All three of Ibanez’s homers this season have come at Safeco Field.
A double by Morales in the fifth inning scored Seager — his third run scored on a night he reached base four consecutive times — to put the Mariners up 6-0.
Seager hit a grounder to short that was ruled a hit, though it was close to an error. His second hit was a blooper down the left-field line that dropped.
“It’s beautiful,” Seager said with a smirk.
The Mariners are looking more attractive of late as a whole. They have won nine of 13 to improve their record to 17-19. Oakland has lost five in a row to dip to 18-19, leaving the Mariners just a half-game out of second place in the AL West division.