Down its own star hitter, the Mariners fell short of combating Tigers and its potent 1-2 punch in a 6-3 loss Friday night. The tandem of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, two of the premium American League hitters, bettered Hisashi Iwakuma in front of 29,000 at Safeco Field.
Seattle (26-28) played for the second consecutive night without second baseman Robinson Cano who has an illness and a sore hand.
Cabrera and Martinez combined to go 4-for-5 against Iwakuma with two home runs, five RBI and an intentional walk. The Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the Tigers lineup entered the game atop almost every AL hitting category. The homer by Cabrera snapped an impressive 50.2 inning scoreless streak Iwakuma had going against the AL Central.
Iwakuma (3-2, 3.09 ERA) simply was not as sharp as he has been.
“His stuff was OK,” McClendon said of Iwakuma. “I didn’t see the finish to his pitches like he usually has had. He’s probably got a little bit of a tired arm with no spring training . . . that’s probably something that’s normal and something to be expected. I suspect that this next time out he’ll have a lot better finish, be a lot sharper.
“He elevated a lot of pitches tonight.”
The turning point came in the fifth inning with two outs and Ian Kinsler on second after a Torii Hunter ground out. The Mariners chose to walk Cabrera intentionally to pitch to Martinez, whose .344 average entering the day led the league.
After seeing nine pitches and fouling off half of them, Martinez connected on a slider from Iwakuma, sending it over the right-field fence.
“I’ve seen Victor do that from time to time over the course of the last seven years,” said manager Lloyd McClendon, who was the Detroit hitting coach from 2007-2013. “We knew it was a calculated risk, but it just didn’t work out.”
First-year Detroit manager Brad Ausmus knows how locked in his cleanup hitter is.
“I’ve never seen a player who has the concentration every single pitch that Victor has on a nightly basis,” Ausmus said. “The only time I see his concentration go up even higher is when he sees someone get walked in front of him.”
And Mariners’ catcher Mike Zunino said Iwakuma followed the planned approach, but it made no difference.
“It was just a great at-bat because, I mean, we threw all off-speed. We threw the one fastball and he fouled it straight back like he was sitting on that the whole time,” Zunino said. “He’s just so balanced and such a good hitter . . . It’s amazing to see a hitter be that zoned in right now.”
Without Cano in the heart of the M’s order, the team lacked the firepower to stay with the Tigers against starter Justin Verlander (6-4, 3.99 ERA). No hitter in the order had an average above .280 entering the game, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin carried averages sub-.170.
Down 2-0 after Cabrera’s third-inning homer, the Mariners tied it in the fourth when Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive night. Seager went 2-for-4 with two RBI for a team-leading 33 and is now hitting .305 over his last 32 games.
The next inning, Martinez delivered his three-run homer and gave Verlander and the Tigers a comfortable 5-2 cushion. The 2011 Cy Young and AL MVP award winner pitched 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven.
“He threw the ball fairly decent,” McClendon said. “That’s vintage Justin. He was on his game.”
A Rajai Davis solo home run in the seventh inning greeted reliever Charlie Furbush and increased Detroit’s lead to 6-2. Seattle added a last run when Michael Saunders doubled home James Jones in the eighth. Jones was 2-for-4 with a stolen base.
1B/DH Logan Morrison has multi-hit games in four of his last five appearances in his rehab stint with AAA Tacoma . . . OF Endy Chavez was 1-for-4 with a double in his 2014 debut.