Hisashi Iwakuma dazzled Detroit for seven innings Monday night with an array of movement and control before the Mariners turned up the heat with Arquimedes Caminero and Edwin Diaz.
It was a potent mix, and it produced a 3-0 victory over the Tigers in the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma (13-7) gave up five hits, all singles, in his seven innings. He started the game by walking Ian Kinsler but didn’t walk anyone else. He also struck out eight in a 97-pitch performance that lowered his ERA to 3.79.
The Mariners turned to Caminero, acquired Saturday from Pittsburgh, to protect the two-run lead in the eighth inning.
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He responded with a one-two-three inning in which his fastball hit or topped 100 mph on five occasions.
Diaz closed the shutout by getting the final three outs for his fifth save in a seven-day span.
Iwakuma is 12-3 in his last 15 starts. The Mariners improved to 58-53, which puts them five games over .500 for the first time since they were 36-31 after Iwakuma beat Boston 8-4 on June 17.
The win also pulled the M’s within 2 1/2 games of Detroit and Boston for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer (9-3) was good, too. He worked seven innings and slipped only in a two-run second, when the M’s bunched three hits and a walk.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Nelson Cruz’s leadoff double in the second inning. Kyle Seager followed with a RBI single on a grounder up the middle.
Fulmer retired Adam Lind on a fly to center but walked Leonys Martin, which moved Seager to second. Mike Zunino followed with a broken-bat single to left that scored Seager for a 2-0 lead.
The chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Mike Freeman grounded into a double play.
That was it until two outs in the eighth against ex-Mariner Mark Lowe. Nori Aoki doubled into the right-center gap and scored on Guillermo Heredia’s soft single to right field.
Walker demoted – In a move that signals their commitment to making a postseason push, the team optioned struggling right-hander Taijuan Walker to Triple-A Tacoma Monday’s game. series opener against Detroit at Safeco Field.
“His last 13 starts,” manager Scott Servais said, “he’s had three quality starts. It may be different if we were 10 or 15 games below .500. We’re not.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera is, rightfully, viewed as one of the game’s premier hitters, but his athleticism often gets overlooked.
Cabrera made a diving backhand stop on Kyle Seager’s sharp grounder in the fourth inning and turned it into a first-short-first (3-6-3) double play.
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners honored the late Rob Ramsay with a moment of silence prior to the game. Ramsay pitched for the Mariners in 1999 and 2000. He died this past last Thursday from brain cancer at age 42.