After five mostly effective starts, Hisashi Iwakuma finally threw like an All-Star — for four of his seven innings, anyway — and Michael Saunders unloaded a two-run homer as the Mariners defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 at Safeco Field Sunday in front of 25,629. Seattle has won three in a row for the first time since May 1-4, and the series sweep was the first of the season.
The Mariners completed the first half at 43-52 and with eight wins in their past 13 contests. During the seven-game home stand, the Mariners, offensively inept much of the first half, tallied 48 runs and swatted 11 home runs. The club record of games in a row with a homer was extended to 22, five short of the MLB record.
Iwakuma, who began the year 7-1, 1.79, improved to 8-4, 3.02. He allowed 10 home runs in his previous four starts and gave up another long ball Sunday, a lead-off blast to Mark Trumbo in the fifth, but had enough going that he was able, with bullpen assistance, to post his first victory since June 10.
Iwakuma, who allowed just two hits through four innings, tired in the seventh and gave up two runs. In 7.0 innings, he yielded three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Leading 4-1 in the fifth, the Mariners had a chance to blow it open when they loaded the bases with no outs. But Angels reliever Michael Kohn whiffed Kendrys Morales, Smoak and Saunders to end the threat.
The second-inning home run by Saunders, his sixth, coming immediately after a Smoak single to left, staked the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.
Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly in the fourth scored Kyle Seager, who singled to left, and made it 3-0. The Angels got a run back in the fifth on Trumbo’s solo shot, his 21st. Seager’s knock extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
The Mariners made it 4-1 on Raul Ibanez’s run-scoring double in the fifth. That ended the day for Angels starter Joe Blanton, who allowed four earned runs on five hits in 4.0 innings and fell to 2-12, 5.53.
In the sixth, Mike Trout singled and Howie Kendrick doubled. Alberto Callaspo brought them home with a single to right. Iwakuma escaped further damage by striking out catcher Chris Iannetta with runners on the corners.
Tom Wilhelmsen, taking over for Charlie Furbush, who pitched a scoreless eighth, nailed down his 19th save in 24 chances by getting Callaspo on a ground ball, pinch hitter Hank Conger on a fly to Ibanez in left and Erick Aybar on a line drive to Nick Franklin at second.
Smoak went 2-for-3 with a walk and finished the home stand 10-for-26 (.385). He was the only Mariner with a multi-hit game.
Off for the All-Star break starting Monday, the Mariners begin the second half Friday at Houston with the first of three against the last-place Astros. The Mariners return to Safeco Field June 22 for a seven-game home stand against Cleveland and Minnesota.
KHP Joe Saunders (8-8, 4.24) will oppose RHP Bud Norris in the first game of the Houston series. Saunders did not allow an earned run in 7.0 innings in beating the Angels 8-3 in his last start, and Norris will be coming off a stinker against St. Louis in which he allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits.
Iwakuma (Saturday) and Felix Hernandez (Sunday) are scheduled to pitch in the Houston series.
NOTES: The Mariners’ streak of homering in 22 consecutive games is the longest in the majors since Atlanta homered in 23 straight in 2008 . . . Seattle’s 10 shutouts at the All-Star break ties the franchise record. Seattle also had 10 pre-ASG shutouts in 2002 and 2003 . . . Kendrys Morales went 0-for-4 Sunday and saw his six-game hitting streak end . . . The Mariners have two pitchers on the American League All-Star team, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. This is Hernandez’s fourth All-Star selection, Iwakuma’s first. The Mariners had two starters in the All-Star Game only one other time, in 2011 when Hernandez and Michael Pineda represented the club . . . The Mariners are 7-6 in their 19-game season series with the Angels. Seattle has not won a season series from LA since 2003.