SEATTLE — From Lloyd McClendon’s viewpoint, it’s because Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma has pitched with such consistency that his last two performances seem so shocking.
“The problem is he’s been so good it hasn’t happened before,” McClendon said after Iwakuma lasted just four innings in Seattle’s 5-4 loss to Boston on Wednesday night. “It seems like something weird but it happens to everybody. He’ll be ready for his next start.”
Iwakuma was knocked around again and has given up 10 earned runs in just nine innings in his last two outings. This time it was Boston slugger David Ortiz doing the damage with a two-run homer in the first – No. 449 for his career – and a line drive RBI single in the third.
Iwakuma (5-4) has been bothered by a sore neck. He gave up eight hits and five earned runs to Boston and could not record an out in the fifth before getting pulled. But he would not attribute his poor performances to the neck discomfort.
“I do feel it but it is not effecting my pitching at all,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “I’m responsible for my last two starts and I need to reflect on what I’ve done wrong and prepare for the next one.”
Seattle saw its five-game winning streak snapped, but was nearly able to keep it going despite Iwakuma’s struggles. Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino both homered in the second inning, Brad Miller added a solo shot in the eighth and Seattle had the tying run at second base in the ninth but couldn’t come up with one more hit.
“We’ve done a good job winning games late but this was one we just didn’t come through with,” Seattle’s Dustin Ackley said.
Seager continued his tear at home with his 12th home run of the season – 11th at Safeco Field – leading off the second against Boston starter Clay Buchholz. Logan Morrison followed with a single and Zunino lined his 11th homer to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. But that was about all the Mariners could do against Buchholz.
Endy Chavez and James Jones led off the sixth with singles, but Buchholz (3-4) got a shallow fly ball from Robinson Cano and Seager grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Miller homered on the first pitch of the eighth inning from Buchholz, cutting the deficit to 5-4. After Jonny Gomes made a diving catch of Stefen Romero’s liner, Buchholz was pulled.
Andrew Miller entered and struck out pinch-hitters Willie Bloomquist and Cole Gillespie to end the eighth. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his 16th save despite allowing two runners and Boston was able to avoid being swept.
“They made me work hard,” Buchholz said. “I knew they were swinging. That’s about the most aggressive team that I’ve pitched to in my career. For the number of pitches that I threw that was a grinding, stressful outing knowing I can’t make a mistake.”
The Mariners were able to stay close late because of five shutout innings from relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon Maurer. They allowed just three hits and struck out seven.
“They threw the ball tremendous. I don’t want those guys overshadowed tonight,” McClendon said.
Ortiz plunked a two-run shot off the windows of the cafe in right field at Safeco Field for a 2-0 lead, his 18th of the season. He drove in another run in the third on a line drive that barely cleared the glove of Romero in right field.
Ortiz’s big hits backed Buchholz’s return to the Boston rotation. After getting knocked around in the second, Buchholz avoided problems. He retired 11 of 12 during one stretch and threw just 76 pitches in 7 1-3 innings.
Buchholz won for the first time since May 2. He had been on the disabled list since May 27 with a hyperextended left knee and after two rehab starts in the minors was brought back to the Red Sox’s rotation.