Hisashi Iwakuma dazzled Detroit for seven innings Monday with an array of movement and control before the Mariners turned up the heat with Arquimedes Caminero and Edwin Diaz.
It was a potent mix, and it produced a 3-0 victory over the Tigers in the opener to a three-game series at Safeco Field.
"We’ve found some power," manager Scott Servais said. "Outstanding pitching tonight, starting with Kuma. He’s on a roll. Maybe not quite as sharp as he was last time out.
"But he was really good at executing the game plan again against a very good team."
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Iwakuma (13-7) gave up five hits, all singles, in his seven innings. He started the game by walking Ian Kinsler but didn’t walk anyone else. He also
struck out eight in a 97-pitch performance that lowered his ERA to 3.79.
So…not quite as sharp?
"I agree," said Iwakuma, who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings Aug. 3 against the Red Sox in a 3-1 victory. "I think, stuff-wise, I had better stuff vs. Boston compared to what I had today.
"I struggled early on. I couldn’t find the groove. I couldn’t get into a rhythm. I couldn’t get strike one. I was able to do that from the third inning on."
The Mariners turned to Caminero, acquired Saturday from Pittsburgh, to protect a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning.
"Why not?" Servais asked. "We acquired him. Our people identified him as a guy who can certainly help. So (we) gave him the opportunity, and I certainly liked what I saw. Power arm."
Caminero responded with a one-two-three inning in which he topped 100 mph on five occasions. He also dismissed the suggestion that entering a tight game in his first outing for a new club produced any heightened pressure.
"Actually, no," he said, "I didn’t have any pressure. This is what I’ve been doing. But it’s exciting in one way because I’m with a new team, and I get to do my job. They’re giving me the opportunity, which is the most important thing."
That got the game to rookie Edwin Diaz, who completed the shutout by getting the final three outs against the heart of the Tigers’ order for his fifth save in a seven-day span.
Diaz didn’t strike out anyone, but he retired Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez on eight pitches.
The Mariners improved to 58-53, which puts them five games over .500 for the first time since they were 36-31 after Iwakuma beat Boston 8-4 on June 17.
The victory also pulled the Mariners to within 2 1/2 games of Detroit and Boston for the American League’s final wild-card berth. Iwakuma is 12-3 in his last 15 starts.
"We couldn’t really figure out Iwakuma," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "The hitters had a little trouble, I think, deciphering between the slider, split and fastball, I think they were all coming in looking the same.
"You know he’s been pitching very well."
Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer (9-3) was good, too. He worked seven innings and slipped only in a two-run second, when the Mariners bunched three hits and a walk.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Nelson Cruz’s leadoff double in the second inning. Kyle Seager followed with a RBI single on a grounder up the middle.
Fulmer retired Adam Lind on a fly to center but walked Leonys Martin, which moved Seager to second. Mike Zunino followed with a broken-bat single to left that scored Seager for a 2-0 lead.
The chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Mike Freeman grounded into a double play.
That was it until two outs in the eighth against ex-Mariner Mark Lowe. Nori Aoki doubled into the right-center gap and scored on Guillermo Heredia’s soft single into right field.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera is, rightfully, viewed as one of the game’s premier hitters, but his athleticism often gets overlooked.
Cabrera made a diving backhand stop on Kyle Seager’s sharp grounder in the fourth inning and turned it into a first-short-first (3-6-3) double play.
PLUS: Hisashi Iwakuma has a streak of 23 1/3 scoreless innings at home…Mariners starters have pitched at least six innings in 15 of the last 19 games. The rotation is 8-4 with a 3.53 ERA in that span…Kyle Seager has 52 RBIs with runners in scoring position, which ranks third in the American League.
MINUS: Center fielder Leonys Martin felt a twinge in his neck when he threw a ball back to the infield in the eighth inning. He received treatment after the game, and manager Scott Servais indicated the injury isn’t believed to be serious…Robinson Cano was hitless in four at-bats, which dropped his average to .292. He is in a 2-for-22 slide over his last five games.
STAT PACK: Hisashi Iwakuma set a franchise record by wining his eighth straight home start. Before Monday, he shared the record with Felix Hernandez, who won seven in a row from Aug. 28, 2009 to April 21, 2010.
QUOTABLE: The Mariners have won four in a row and six of their last seven games.
"That Griffey weekend helped," said Nelson Cruz, who had two of the Mariners’ seven hits. "That energy that we felt, it was pretty nice. The crowd supplied the energy that we need.
"And our pitching has been amazing. If we want to make a run, that’s what we need."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners honored the late Rob Ramsay with a moment of silence prior to the game. Ramsay pitched for the Mariners in 1999 and 2000. He died last Thursday from brain cancer at age 42…Arquimedes Caminero is the 28th different pitcher used this season by the Mariners, which ties a franchise record set in 1995 and matched in 2015…Hisashi Iwakuma is 14-2 in his career against American League Central opponents.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners