MINNEAPOLIS — Hisashi Iwakuma struck out five in 7 2-3 innings and Kendrys Morales homered to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Iwakuma (6-1) gave up seven hits and walked two and Jesus Sucre added two hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who snapped Minnesota’s four-game winning streak. Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 12th save.
Mike Pelfrey (3-6) gave up three runs on six hits in 5 1-3 innings for the Twins. Pedro Florimon had three hits and Chris Parmelee had two, but the rest of the lineup went 2 for 27 with six strikeouts.
Morales’ eighth homer of the season was a two-run shot off Pelfrey to dead center field that started Seattle’s three-run third inning. And that was all Iwakuma needed.
After a 10-game losing streak earlier in the month, the Twins came into the opener against the struggling Mariners on a nice little roll. They had won five of their previous six games following that miserable skid and appeared to have their fortunes turning thanks to a soft spot in the schedule — they took four straight from the free-falling Brewers this week — and some luck in not getting Mariners ace Felix Hernandez this weekend.
But Iwakuma is no picnic either.
Like many of his Japanese brethren who have come before him, Iwakuma has an almost hypnotic, unconventional delivery that plays with a hitter’s eye level. His right leg flares out on the follow-through that has the potential to distract as his splitter reaches the plate. He went 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts last season, but the American League hasn’t shown any signs of figuring him out in his second year.
The crafty right-hander entered the game with a 2.35 ERA, the third best in the American League and just ahead of Hernandez (2.38). His only loss of the season came in a 2-1 defeat at Houston on April 23 when he struck out 11 in five innings.
He didn’t miss as many bats on Friday night, but he was just as effective. He got Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit twice and also induced three comebackers to the mound as the Twins flailed away.
The Twins had a chance to get on the board in the third inning with runners at the corners and one out. But a drawn-in Brendan Ryan made a nifty stab at shortstop on a hot shot from Jamey Carroll and made a sharp throw off one foot to get Parmelee at home plate.
Iwakuma caught a break in the fifth when Florimon’s double down the left field line bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double, which prevented Parmelee from scoring. Carroll grounded out to end the inning.