Hisashi Iwakuma blinked first Friday night in his pitchers’ duel against Colorado right-hander Chad Bettis. And Iwakuma blinked hard.
Hard enough, anyway.
The Rockies strung together five straight one-out hits against Iwakuma in the seventh inning, including a three-run homer by Dustin Garneau, and held on for a 4-2 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
“I don’t know (that anything changed),” Iwakuma said, “to be honest with you. I made decent pitches, and they put up good at-bats.
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“The only bad pitch I had in that inning was a slider that kind of spun and backed up into (Garneau’s) barrel. Other than that, I thought I did a pretty good job.”
Bettis (7-5) never blinked in his seven innings, but the Mariners quickly found life when the Rockies called on Christian Friedrich to protect a three-run in the eighth.
Shawn O’Malley batted for James Jones and drew a leadoff walk. Kyle Seager then jumped a first-pitch slider for a two-run homer.
That quickly, the Mariners were back to within 3-2.
Seager’s homer was his 24th, which is one shy of his career-best 25, set a year ago. That was it, though. The Mariners got no closer against a relay of Colorado relievers.
Justin Miller replaced Friedrich and got a borderline strike-three call on Nelson Cruz. Then another switch, to Boone Logan, who retired Robinson Cano on a grounder to first.
Then still another matchup switch to Jairo Diaz, who issued a four-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. After Ketel Marte entered the game as a pinch runner, Seth Smith struck out.
The Rockies added an insurance run in the ninth against Tony Zych on a two-out wild pitch before John Axford closed out the victory for his 22nd save.
The loss dropped the Mariners to 68-74 with 20 games remaining. They are seven games behind Texas for the American League’s final wild card berth.
Iwakuma (7-4) carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh inning in a quest for the Mariners’ third straight shutout victory — something that’s never been done in the franchise’s 39 years.
It still hasn’t.
The roof caved in on Iwakuma after DJ LeMahieu opened the inning with a grounder to short. Justin Morneau and Ben Paulsen delivered successive singles before Garneau crushed a first-pitch slider.
Garneau’s drive caromed off the scoreboard in dead left field for a three-run homer, which halted the Mariners’ scoreless streak at 24 innings over two-plus games.
“He got something elevated and put a good swing on it,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “He got a good pitch to hit, and he didn’t miss. All it took was just one good swing, that was the difference with how well Bettis threw.
“Iwakuma’s split is filthy, it disappears late. He doesn’t wow you with a lot of velocity, but he can elevate the fastball to set up the split. Once we went one time through the order, I knew it was going to be tough to score.”
When Daniel Descalso and and Charlie Blackmon followed with singles — five straight hits — the Mariners went to their bullpen for Danny Farquhar.
Colorado’s breakthrough came right after the Mariners failed to capitalize on a two-on, no-out opportunity in the sixth. Jones led off with a single up the middle and went to second when Seager walked.
Bettis squelched the threat by, first, getting Cruz to ground into a double play. Jones moved to third but, after an intentional walk to Cano, Trumbo struck out.
“He had a good change-up,” Cruz said. “His slider was sharp, and his fastball was 96. Good pitches.”
SATURDAY: Colorado (LHP Yohan Flande: 3-2, 4.65 ERA) at Seattle (LHP Roenis Elias: 4-8, 4.30), 6:10 p.m., Root Sports, 710-AM, 1030-AM