As Oakland series continues, Mariners try to avoid backsliding (Apr 21, 2017)

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Seattle Mariners’ rough start to the season is becoming a distant memory.

After losing eight of their first 10 games, the Mariners have won five of their past seven. Seattle swept three games from the Texas Rangers and took two of three from the Miami Marlins before falling 9-6 to the Oakland A’s on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series and 10-game road trip.

Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will face A’s lefty Sean Manaea in the second game of the series on Friday night at Oakland Coliseum.

“We weren’t playing good baseball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said before Thursday’s game. “The biggest thing for us is we have to control the strike zone, control the line of scrimmage, and we got back to doing that. That’s kind of who we are, that’s our identity, and it pays off. We walked 10 times in (Wednesday’s) game. Guys are grinding at-bats.

“Our mentality’s getting back to where it needs to be. We have a talented team, no doubt, but you don’t win the game on paper. You’ve got to go out and do it and execute and finish off hitters and finish off at-bats when you’re in the batter’s box. Our guys have done a good job here.”

After losing the opener to Oakland, Servais knows the Mariners can’t afford to let up.

“We need everybody to step up right now,” Servais said. “Oakland’s got a good team. And they will battle. They put the bat on the ball. Bullpen’s pretty good; they can do some things. We need to get after it here. Big series, (division) series. We’ve got to pick it up a little bit.”

Manaea, who is in his second major league season, is 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts this year. Opposing hitters are batting .138 (8-for-58) against Manaea, but he has been hurt by wildness. He has walked nine batters and hit four.

In his last start, Manaea had a no-hitter through five innings against the Houston Astros on Saturday, but he walked the bases loaded in the sixth and faced just one more batter. Carlos Correa hit a hard line drive that went off shortstop Adam Rosales’ glove for an error and was booted by center fielder Jaff Decker for another error as two runs scored.

Manaea wound up with a no-decision in Oakland’s 10-6 loss.

“It’s kind of been a weird season so far, but I feel like I’m in a good place, too, keep improving and things like that,” Manaea said. “Just kind of lost it, lost the feel for my arm slot, just my pitches and everything like that. That’s completely on me. Last game, I put the loss on me because I put the bullpen in a really bad situation.

“It’s just something I have to improve on and get better at. I’m doing everything I can, and I know one day it’s just going to click and everything’s going to be for the better. I’m not worried about anything right now. I’m just trying to improve on everything I can and looking forward to (Friday).”

Iwakuma (0-1, 5.40 ERA) allowed two or fewer runs and pitched six innings in each of his first two starts but struggled in his third start on Sunday against Texas. He gave up six runs on seven hits over three innings and got a no-decision in Seattle’s 8-7 victory.

“I know he’s anxious to get back out there,” Servais said. “He was really disappointed in his outing. He’s very quiet, as we all know, but he’s very much a team guy. And when it doesn’t work in his favor, he feels like he let the team down. He’ll be ready to go. He’s anxious to get back out there and turn it around, and hopefully his stuff is a little bit better, too.

“The ball just wasn’t coming out of his hand good the other day, and that happens. You’re going to make 30-some-odd starts, there’s going to be days where you don’t have your really good stuff, but you’ve got to figure out a way through it. He just wasn’t able to do that last time out.”

Iwakuma is 9-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts, against Oakland. Manaea is 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in three career starts against Seattle.

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