Angels-Mariners Preview

Struggling Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma can only

hope his past form against the Los Angeles Angels helps him break

out of a five-start winless run.

Joe Blanton may be tied for the major league lead in losses, but

he’s pitched better over his last five outings than Iwakuma has in

the same span.

Both starters allowed six runs in shaky efforts their last time

out and will meet Sunday when the Mariners try for their first

three-game home sweep of the Angels in eight seasons.

Iwakuma (7-4, 2.97 ERA) has been close to or at the top of the

AL in ERA through most of the season while Blanton (2-11, 5.40)

owns the majors’ third-worst ERA. Yet this may not be the pitching

mismatch it appears to be based on that alone.

Iwakuma is 0-3 with a 6.83 ERA over his last five outings. The

six runs allowed by the All-Star on Tuesday came in the shortest

start of his career, a three-inning stint in which he escaped

without a decision in an 11-8 loss to Boston.

“I think my pitches are catching too much of the plate the last

couple of starts,” Iwakuma said through a translator. “I need to

work on that.”

Blanton lasted five-plus innings in Tuesday’s 7-2 defeat to the

Chicago Cubs. His ERA in his last five starts is 4.26.

“It was just one of those games,” said Blanton, who had a 3.04

ERA over his previous four starts. “I tried to battle through, but

I made too many mistakes over the plate.”

The right-hander allowed a season-worst four homers and has

given up a major league high-tying 22.

He’ll be up against a Seattle team that has homered five times

in this series to extend its club record for consecutive games with

at least one to 21. That’s the longest by an AL team since Texas

set the major league record with 27 straight in 2002.

“Everybody has been busting our chops on offense and rightfully

so but I think you’ve got to give these kids kudos for that,”

manager Eric Wedge said.

Blanton is 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two 2013 starts against the


Seattle (42-52) last swept three at home from Los Angeles

(44-48) from Sept. 12-14, 2005. The Mariners have to like their

chances if Iwakuma can duplicate his past results against the


Iwakuma has beaten Los Angeles more than any team, going 4-0

with a 1.11 ERA in five starts. He has struck out 22 and never

allowed an earned run in 19 1-3 innings at home versus the


Albert Pujols is 2 for 16 against the right-hander, Mike Trout

is 2 for 15, Erick Aybar 2 for 10 and Josh Hamilton 2 for 9. Pujols

and Trout have each struck out five times versus Iwakuma.

Pujols is 3 for 23 at Safeco Field this year and Hamilton is 4

for 24. Neither has gone deep.

The Mariners, meanwhile, have outhomered the Angels 10-3 in

winning five of six at home. Raul Ibanez is 5 for 8 with two homers

in this series.

Justin Smoak had the game’s only homer Saturday and drove in

four runs in a 6-0 victory.