Two players who were almost afterthoughts for the Mariners in spring training, pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and catcher John Jaso, have done nothing but turn heads for Seattle in 2012. That continued Thursday in Anaheim in a 9-4 win over the Angels.
Iwakuma pitched six innings to beat the Angels for the third time since joining the starting rotation. Jaso cranked out a two-run homer, his 10th, and an RBI double as the Mariners salvaged the finale of a three-game series.
A none-too-heralded import from Japan, Iwakuma was dumped in the Seattle bullpen to start the season, but injuries and necessity moved him into the role he knows best, starting. It’s been one of the season's best moves.
Iwakuma is 8-5 with a 3.32 ERA. Since July 25 he is 7-3 in 12 starts with a 2.34 ERA, and Thursday was the eighth time in those dozen games he’s turned in a quality start. Iwakuma was dinged by an unearned run in the second inning and gave up a run-scoring single by Alberto Callaspo in the fourth, but mostly he was in command, even when he started elevating in the strike zone more than he would have liked.
"Kuma did a nice job,’’ manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously, that’s a tough lineup. And we were a little bit sloppy early on.’’
Jaso was picked up from Tampa Bay to be the third catcher, but his production has been such that he’s forced himself into the lineup, either behind the plate or as DH, for most of the second half of the season.
He was DH Thursday when he became the seventh Mariner to reach double digits in homers, joining Justin Smoak (19), Kyle Seager (18), Michael Saunders (17), Jesus Montero (14) and Dustin Ackley and Miguel Olivo (12 each).
The Callaspo single tied the game after Jaso’s 10th homer gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. An inning later, however, the Angels’ defense that fell apart. A throwing error by shortstop Erick Aybar set up a run-scoring grounder from Franklin Gutierrez in the fifth, and the Mariners would never trail again.
Seattle led 3-2 entering the seventh with a poor history of putting together big innings. That ended with a four-run seventh, including a bases-loaded walk from Trayvon Robinson, a run-scoring single from Seager, a sacrifice fly from Montero and Jaso’s run-scoring double. It was the first time in 102 innings that the Mariners had scored as many as four runs in an inning.
"Jaso has had a lot of big hits for us,’’ Wedge said. "He is one of the most consistent, if not the most consistent, hitters we’ve had all year. He likes being up there in critical situations. He’s very confident, very confident with two strikes as well. He’s been a real big pickup for us.’’