It is fairly unlikely that a respectable team in Major League Baseball would go half of the season without a series sweep, but when the Seattle Mariners took the field on Sunday, that was their predicament. Fortunately for the M’s, they had Hisashi Iwakuma on their side.
Iwakuma, or the “Flying Salmon” for fans of ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Podcast, threw 7 quality innings, allowing just 3 earned runs and striking out 7 in route to a 4-3 victory for the Mariners. The performance capped both an outstanding 1st half of the season for Iwakuma and the first series sweep of the year for Seattle, as they had previously downed the Angels by an 8-3 final on Friday and a 6-0 tally on Saturday.
The big offensive blow for Seattle doubled as the first scoring play of the game. Outfielder Michael Saunders blasted a 2-run home run off of LA starter Joe Blanton, and the M’s were staked to a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish. After that, Iwakuma took over, and he reminded fans of why he was selected to Tuesday’s All-Star Game. The right-hander finished the first half with a very solid 3.02 ERA, and more impressively, a 1.30 BB/9 walk rate.
On the negative side, however, the Mariners still trail Oakland by a staggering 13 games in the AL West despite the sweep. The future is bright in Seattle with quality arms throughout the minor leagues in addition to Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, but the offense is lacking a bit, and they’ll need quality from their previously underachieving young players.
It may be their only sweep of the season, but the Mariners shined over the weekend.