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SEA@ATL: Iwakuma leads Mariners to fifth straight win

After a rainout in Kansas City, the much-awaited pitching matchup between former Nippon Professional Baseball teammates Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka won't come to fruition.

Instead, Seattle's Iwakuma will oppose New York's Vidal Nuno on Tuesday at Safeco Field. Nuno's start was bumped back from Monday. Tanaka is now scheduled to pitch Wednesday.

The Mariners are returning home from a successful road trip, during which they went 6-1. They've also won eight of nine to pull within five games of the first-place A's.

The Yankees are beginning a West Coast trip that will also take them to Oakland. They hope Nuno can start the trip off on a high note. Fortunately for him, he'll be pitching away from Yankee Stadium.

In seven career starts at home, Nuno is 0-3 with a 6.21 ERA. Away from Yankee Stadium, Nuno owns a 2.08 ERA in five career starts.

For him, the reason is simple.

"It's just the ballpark probably, it's smaller at home," Nuno said.

There's evidence that backs Nuno's explanation. Only one of his five road starts came at a stadium that was not regarded as a pitcher-friendly ballpark.

Nuno received a no-decision in his last outing against the A's on Wednesday. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, two runs and striking out five.

"I felt in a groove the first few innings, it's just the last two innings leadoff hitters got on and that got me into trouble," Nuno said.

Nuno, a rookie lefty, has never faced the Mariners.

After missing the first month of this season with a torn finger tendon, Iwakuma has gone 4-2 with a 2.66 ERA. In 56 career starts with Seattle, he's posted a 27-13 record and a 2.82 ERA, and he finished third in last year's American League Cy Young Award voting.

Iwakuma is coming off seven innings of shutout ball in Atlanta when he allowed six hits, no walks and seven strikeouts in a 2-0 win that raised his record to 4-2 with a 2.66 ERA.

"This guy is a surgeon," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He knows what he's doing and what he wants to do to execute with certain guys."

Yankees: Kelley progressing toward bullpen return
Shawn Kelley will make a second rehab assignment appearance Monday after appearing in a game for Double-A Trenton over the weekend.

As of Sunday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the destination has not been selected, but that Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was the front-runner.

Kelley was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 13 and logged two-thirds of an inning for Trenton on Sunday. He walked one and struck out two.

Girardi said that if all goes according to plan for Kelley in his Monday outing, he could rejoin the club Wednesday in Seattle.

Mariners: Zunino moving up in lineup
Seattle catcher Mike Zunino was slotted fifth in the team's batting order for Monday's series finale against the Rays, and it seems like the move might stick for Tuesday's game.

"I think he's ready to move up," McClendon said Monday. "The one thing you get with Mike, you're going to get some swing-and-misses. But he's dangerous. He can juice a ball pretty good. I like where he is, particularly with breaking balls right now. He's seeing the ball pretty good. And I think he's a guy that's going to be a run producer."

McClendon added that asking the 23-year-old to bat in the No. 5 hole on a permanent basis might be a bit much. But with the personnel the Mariners currently have, it might be the best place for him.

Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 Draft, was hitting .218 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs entering Tuesday's game.

Worth noting
This will be Robinson Cano's first time facing the Yankees, his former team, at Safeco Field, though he saw them at Yankee Stadium at the end of April and then again for a makeup game last week. Cano entered Monday hitting .370 (47-for-127) since May 3, the top average in the Majors in that span.

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