Posted September 26, 2013 on AP on Fox
Hisashi Iwakuma couldn't have ended his season any better. Iwakuma kept the Kansas City Royals scoreless through eight innings of the Seattle Mariners' 6-0 win on Wednesday. He finished his season with a 23-inning scoreless streak. As he walked off the mound for the final time, the sparse Safeco Field crowd of 15,347 gave him a standing ovation. ''I am very happy and grateful at the same time,'' Iwakuma said through a translator. ''I've never experienced that, to be honest with you. That was the first thing I'd gone through and it was quite impressive.'' Everyone else was left impressed by Iwakuma's performance. ''It sort of caps off the year he had,'' Catcher Mike Zunino said. ''He just keeps getting stronger. Every start is getting better and better.'' Zunino had a big night of his own, hitting two home runs. Michael Saunders also homered on Wednesday and Kyle Seager hit a two-run double for Seattle, which has won three of four. Zunino and Saunders hit back-to-back homers with two outs in the eighth inning, the 14th time this season Mariners have hit consecutive home runs. Even with the offensive display, the night belonged to Iwakuma (14-6). He finished his season without allowing a run in three straight starts and was 4-0 in his final eight. ''The last four or five starts he's been as strong, if not stronger, than we've seen him,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ''He does the work, pays attention to the game, prepares himself well and he handles everything in a grand fashion as well.'' Iwakuma's 2.66 ERA is third-best in the American League. ''The way he was throwing the ball today was great,'' Seager said. ''The way he has thrown the ball all year, he has done a fantastic job and he capped it off tonight in a big way.'' Against the Royals, Iwakuma gave up four hits and never allowed more than one base runner in an inning. He didn't walk anyone until the eighth. He had nine strikeouts, the 13th time in 33 starts he struck out at least seven. The win eliminated Kansas City from the postseason. ''He handcuffed us, we couldn't do anything,'' Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. It was the second straight night Seattle shut out the Royals, who haven't scored since the 12th inning of Monday's 6-5 win. With all three teams ahead of Kansas City in the wild-card hunt - Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas - winning on Wednesday, the Royals needed a victory to keep their slim hopes alive. Ervin Santana (9-10) matched Iwakuma and kept the Mariners scoreless for the first four innings before Seattle broke through. Santana went six innings, allowing four runs and five hits with two strikeouts and four walks. Zunino broke the scoreless tie leading off the fifth inning, taking Santana's first pitch deep to left field. ''He has some thump in that bat,'' Wedge said. ''He will have to continue to learn how to hit, but you saw a glimpse there of what he is capable of.'' The blast sparked more scoring for the Mariners. With one out, Brad Miller doubled and Nick Franklin walked. With Seager at the plate, Santana's pickoff attempt to second ended up in center field, putting runners on second and third. Seager then laced a double down the right field line to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. The Mariners added a run in the seventh. Dustin Ackley led off the inning with a double, ending Santana's night. Miller pushed a bunt up the first base line and reliever Will Smith's throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer was wide, allowing Ackley to score. The Royals' best offensive chance came in the fifth, when Mike Moustakas doubled with one out and took off running when Jarrod Dyson hit a line drive which looked as if it might reach the outfield. Instead, Miller at shortstop timed his jump and snared the ball, then jogged to second to double off Moustakas and end the inning. NOTES: Seattle manager Eric Wedge said before the game he feels like he's ''hanging out there'' with little clarity regarding his future with the organization. Wedge's contract - originally a three-year deal - expires after the season and Wedge indicated he's been given no word about whether he'll return for a fourth year. ... Seattle has hit 183 home runs this year, tied with Toronto for second-fewest in the major leagues. ... The last time Kansas City was shut out in back-to-back games was May 22-23, 2009, at St. Louis. ... Seattle's last back-to-back shutouts came on April 21-22, 2011, against Oakland. Wednesday was the Mariners' 14th shutout of the season, the second-best mark in team history. Seattle had 15 shutouts in 2003.
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