Iwakuma drops duel with Jays' Dickey
Mariners held to Smoak's solo homer off knuckleballer
SEATTLE -- Two starters known for their signature pitches dueled to a standstill on Monday night, as Hisashi Iwakuma's splitter and R.A. Dickey's knuckleball stifled batters until late in the game. While Dickey was hit first, Iwakuma was hit hardest in the Mariners' 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Safeco Field.
Justin Smoak broke a scoreless tie with a leadoff home run to right field in the seventh inning, but the Blue Jays fired back with a three-run eighth thanks to Mark DeRosa's two-out, two-run single off Oliver Perez.
Seattle had runners on the corners shortly after Smoak's homer, thanks to some sloppy play by Toronto. Humberto Quintero hit a single and advanced to second on a fielding error in right field by Jose Bautista, who overran the ball. Quintero advanced to third on a passed ball, and Brad Miller drew a walk. In keeping with the game's theme, however, Kyle Seager ground into a double play.
Brett Lawrie, from nearby British Columbia and a favorite of a large contingent of Blue Jays fans at the game, promptly responded, leading off the eighth with a triple, just the third hit Toronto managed off Iwakuma.
"Very solid. He was Iwakuma," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "That's the reason we sent him back out there. He had given up two hits and he was at 93 pitches and we thought he was the guy to go with. For us it was, why not? For him, he was ready to go."
After a groundout to second base by Josh Thole, Jose Reyes singled in the tying run, prompting Thompson to replace Iwakuma with Yoervis Medina with the score tied at 1. Medina got the second out by inducing Rajai Davis to fly out to right fielder Mike Morse, but a pair of calls and a pitch up in the zone sent Seattle tumbling.
Reyes, after he was called safe on what appeared to be a successful pickoff play at first base, moved to second on a single by Bautista. With Edwin Encarnacion batting, Reyes was called safe on a pickoff play at second, though replays showed second baseman Dustin Ackley's tag caught Reyes on the arm ahead of his return to the bag. Thompson came out to argue, but the inning continued.
Encarnacion drew a walk to load the bases, and DeRosa was called to pinch-hit after the Mariners brought in Perez for a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Adam Lind. Perez had DeRosa down, 0-2, before the veteran laced the third pitch into left field to drive in Reyes and Bautista and give Toronto a 3-1 lead.
"Oliver's a guy prides himself on attacking. He's got a lot of herky-jerky motions," DeRosa said. "I was just trying to take the lower half out of it, get my foot down. I knew he'd challenge me. That's the type of guy he is. ... He just kept throwing me fastballs. ... So just choked up with two strikes and tried to put something in play hard. It worked out."
With the loss, Seattle fell to 52-60 on the season, just a half-game ahead of the Angels for third place in the American League West. Despite going 15-10 in July, the Mariners have struggled lately, winning just three of their last 10 games.
Reyes led the game off with a single against Iwakuma. It was the last hit the Blue Jays (52-60) would get until a two-out single by Lawrie in the fifth inning.
The first sign of trouble for Iwakuma came in the fourth, when sluggers Bautista and Encarnacion drew two-out walks. But Lind grounded out to end the inning.
Seattle amassed eight hits against Dickey but couldn't convert them into runs. Time and again, the Mariners put a man in scoring position, only to end the frame with nothing to show for it. In the first, third and fifth innings, Seattle had two men aboard with one out, and each time the runners were stranded. Seattle ended the game with eight hits.
Quintero led off the third inning with a double for Seattle. But he hesitated on a single from Seager, and merely advanced to third base when he likely should have scored.
"R.A. Dickey did a great job against us," Thompson said. "We had a couple of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. We had a little bit of a blunder base-running early that we knew was probably going to come down to be a big run we wish we would have gotten, but that's the game of baseball.
Dickey -- who played 32 games for the Mariners during the 2008 season -- struck out five with two walks in 7 2/3 innings. Iwakuma lasted 7 1/3 frames, taking the loss despite allowing only four hits. He now drops to 9-1 when pitching seven or more innings while allowing two or fewer runs.