It’s safe to say Hisashi Iwakuma enjoys facing the Twins. He entered Monday’s start at Safeco Field with a 4-0 record and 0.00 ERA in 26.2 career innings against Minnesota. He furthered that dominance with another scoreless seven-inning gem on the way to a 2-0 Mariners triumph.A pair of solo home runs off Twins starter Kevin Correia was the difference in the first of four against the Central Division tail-enders. Mike Zunino provided a 1-0 lead with his blast on a 3-2 count with one out in the second inning. Michael Saunders’ shot came with two outs in the seventh and gave the bullpen breathing room.
After Danny Farquhar pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, closer Fernando Rodney did likewise in the ninth to lock up his 26th save. Mariners pitchers have allowed three runs over the last 33 innings.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of his starter. “I think he built off his last start. Pretty impressive outing for him.”
The Twins’ best scoring opportunity came in the seventh. Kendrys Morales singled and Oswaldo Arcia doubled with one out. Despite a climbing pitch count, Iwakuma battled back to get a groundout and strikeout to end the inning.
“It was his ballgame to win or lose right there,” said McClendon. ”He’s a veteran, he’s been pitching well, his pitch count was relatively manageable. I just felt that he should have that opportunity to decide his fate.”
Iwakuma (7-4, 3.07 ERA) pounded his mitt and strode off the mound with an audible yelp not often heard from him. He allowed four hits and struck out a season-high 10 while increasing his scoreless streak to 33.2 innings versus Minnesota (39-49).
“I desperately wanted to get that out there. I was fighting tooth and nail there, so I was very happy,” Iwakuma said of his strikeout of Sam Fuld. “It was a good game. Everything was working from my end, so that helped a lot.”
He needed to be at his best. The Seattle offense had another tough night in the return home.
Starter Kevin Correia, who entered Monday’s start in much better form over his last seven outings, held Seattle to two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings. It was the fourth time in 18 starts Correia pitched beyond the sixth inning. Correia (4-11, 4.79 ERA) is 2-5 with a 3.33 ERA over his last 48 innings. The stretch has helped him lower his ERA from 7.33 in April to 4.79.
Following Zunino’s homer, Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller reached base via a single and walk, respectively, but Correia settled down and retired Saunders and James Jones. The two outs began a stretch in which the 33-year-old retired nine in a row before walking Saunders in the fifth.
After being shut out on five hits Sunday, the Mariners responded with five more. Despite the low total, McClendon saw progress.
“They were better at-bats today,” McClendon said. “I thought we hit some balls pretty decent. For the most part (we) stayed in the strike zone.”
After the game, the Mariners surprisingly announced that reserve catcher John Buck was designated for assignment — on his 34th birthday. Buck played in 27 games and hit .227 in 84 at-bats. A corresponding roster move will be announced Tuesday . . . 3B Kyle Seager was selected by Red Sox manager John Farrell to replace injured Blue Jays 1B Edwin Encarnacion on the AL All-Star team. It is Seager’s first such honor. He ranks second among all AL third basemen with an .829 OPS, 13 home runs, 59 RBI and 3.2 WAR. He was 0-for-4 Monday night . . . LHP James Paxton will pitch a simulated game Tuesday.