OAKLAND, Calif. — Hisashi Iwakuma’s 15th win did much more than end his four-game losing streak that dated to mid-August.
It also gave Seattle a much-needed lift to start its final West Coast road trip. More importantly, it helped keep the Mariners’ postseason hopes alive and inched manager Scott Servais’ team closer to the second AL wild card spot.
Iwakuma pitched into the seventh inning to match his career high with the 15 wins, and the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 on Friday night.
“We all fight and play to play in the playoffs,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “As a starter I only pitch one game every five days so being that day today you want to go out and give it all you got. I was able to do that tonight.”
Nori Aoki and Mike Zunino homered and Nelson Cruz added an RBI double to help the Mariners move within 3 1/2 games of Baltimore and Detroit for the second wild card spot in the AL.
Iwakuma (15-11) allowed two runs over 6 2-3 innings to snap a four-game losing streak and become the third Japanese-born pitcher to have multiple 15-win seasons. Iwakuma, who also had 15 wins in 2014, struck out five and walked one.
“From the first inning he had all of his pitches working,” Servais said. “We got off to a pretty quick start and we kind of faded offensively so we certainly needed the pitching tonight. Everybody stepped up. It was nice to see.”
Aoki homered leading off the third, Zunino in the seventh.
Oakland’s Bruce Maxwell had three hits including an RBI double while rookie Joey Wendle singled twice. The loss eliminates the A’s (60-80) from playoff contention, the earliest that’s happened since 1997.
It’s also the third time this season that Oakland has lost to Iwakuma.
“Just when you feel like you have a beat on him . he makes big pitches when he has to,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He hasn’t been perfect against us. He’s (allowed) a couple of runs, they score more than that and he ends up winning.”
Robinson Cano drew a two-out walk in the first and scored on Cruz’s double following a 13-pitch at-bat with A’s starter Daniel Mengden. Cruz fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and fouled off six consecutive pitches before doubling off the wall in right-center.
Aoki hit his second home run of the season and first since May 28 on Mengden’s first pitch in the third.
Zunino homered off Daniel Coulombe leading off the seventh.
The A’s scored in the fifth on Wendle’s RBI single then pulled within 3-2 when Maxwell doubled in Max Muncy in the seventh to chase Iwakuma.
Dan Altavilla and Steve Cishek combined to retire four batters for Seattle. Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth for his 14th save.
Mengden (1-7) got better as the game progressed but still lost and is winless since June 27. Mengden allowed two runs over five innings, walked two and struck out six
Iwakuma joins Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka as the only Japanese-born pitchers with multiple 15-win seasons. Nomo won 16 games three times for the Los Angeles Dodgers while Matsuzaka won 15 in 2007 and 18 in 2008, both times with Boston. “Overall I had good life on my fastball,” Iwakuma said. “I was able to locate both my fastball and my breaking pitches so I think that helped me a lot.”
INTO THE BOOKS
Zunino became the ninth Mariner to reach double digits in home runs this season, tying a club record. Seattle had done it four times previously, most recently in 2015.
Athletics: Francisco Rodriguez underwent shoulder surgery earlier Friday and will be sidelined for at least four months. Rodriguez had a 3.74 ERA in 34 games as a reliever for Oakland this season. … LHP Sean Manaea, out since Aug. 29 with a back strain, will throw an extended bullpen Saturday before the team decides when he’ll start again.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (10-5) starts against the A’s on Saturday looking to continue his recent streak of strong outings since coming off the DL. Hernandez is 6-1 over his last 10 starts.
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (10-9) goes for Oakland seeking his first win in three starts against Seattle this season. Graveman has a 2.64 ERA at home that is the third-lowest in the AL.