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Iwakuma shuts down Angels for sixth win

SEATTLE -- With a rotation that includes July's American League Pitcher of the Month and an AL Cy Young Award candidate, it's easy to forget about Hisashi Iwakuma.

But it might be hard to ignore the 31-year-old Japanese rookie much longer. Iwakuma worked into the eighth inning and helped the Mariners avoid being swept by the Angels with a 2-1 win on Sunday at Safeco Field.

Iwakuma had been adept at pitching with runners on base lately, and he was no different against the Angels. The right-hander allowed four baserunners to reach third base -- including twice in the third before two outs were recorded -- but didn't allow one to score.

But Iwakuma, who started the season as a long reliever, was more in control on Sunday than he had been in his past few outings. He lasted 7 1/3 innings, scattered five hits, struck out seven, did not allow a walk and has now won four straight decisions. The righty has lost just once since July 15 and is 6-3 on the season with a 1.59 ERA in his last eight starts.

"Arguably, this might have been the best stuff we've seen him have," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He's had some other real good games, as well, but I think when you talk about that lineup and how aggressive he was and how he used all of his pitches, you just can't say enough about the performance he gave us tonight.

"I felt like he took control of the ballgame right away from the first pitch on. He had real good stuff today, had a live fastball, had something on the end of his fastball as it was approaching home plate. Just a great effort, he was pretty efficient all in all. Just a great effort against obviously a very good hitting ballclub."

Iwakuma gave way to reliever Josh Kinney after allowing back-to-back one-out singles in the seventh. Kinney came through, though, preserving Iwakuma's scoreless effort by inducing fly outs from Mike Trout and Torii Hunter.

"I think if you were watching the same game that I was watching, we did have a lot of opportunities, we just didn't come through," said Albert Pujols, who grounded out with a runner on third to end the sixth. "And that's the way it goes. It's part of the game."

Jesus Montero put the Mariners up, 1-0, in the fourth by drilling an 0-1 pitch from Jered Weaver into the Seattle bullpen in left-center field. The home run, coupled with a single earlier in the game, added to Montero's incredible numbers off the Angels' ace. In nine career at-bats against the righty, Montero has five hits, four of which are home runs.

"I get lucky," Montero laughed. "All I can say is I try to hit the ball the other way."

Recently recalled Carlos Peguero added to the lead with a solo shot of his own in the fifth, hitting a moonshot into the right-field seats.

Two batters later, the Angels got a scare when Weaver was drilled near his right shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Dustin Ackley. Weaver recovered to throw to first -- not in time, though -- but looked to be in immediate pain after the play. He stayed in the game after being checked by the training staff, but was lifted with one out an inning later after throwing only 86 pitches.

The lone Angels run came in the ninth, as closer Tom Wilhelmsen allowed a run-scoring single to Howie Kendrick. Wilhelmsen induced Erick Aybar into a fly out, though, and recorded his 22nd save.

Getting out of jams was the name of the game for the Mariners on Sunday, and no one did it better than Iwakuma.

"His command today was unbelievable," Montero said. "His fastball, slider, curveball, split -- unbelievable. Everything was down and that's the most important thing. When he's down, when he's good, he throw the ball down and he's the best."

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