Iwakuma shaky in Mariners’ 9-3 loss to Yomiuri

Hisashi Iwakuma had a shaky return to Japan, giving up six runs

over four innings Monday in Seattle’s 9-3 exhibition loss to the

Yomiuri Giants – the last game for the Mariners before their season

opener.

Dustin Ackley hit a solo homer in the first off D.J. Houlton at

Tokyo Dome. Former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder John Bowker

tied it when he homered off Iwakuma in the bottom half.

Iwakuma spent 12 seasons in Japanese professional baseball

before signing with the Mariners during the offseason. He gave up

five more runs before leaving after the fourth.

Seattle is in Japan to open major league season against the

Oakland Athletics on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Mariners and Iwakuma agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million

contract last month, plus $3 million in performance bonuses bases

on starts and innings. He would get the full amount with 32 starts

and 200 innings, but Seattle manager Eric Wedge already has said

Iwakuma will start the season in the bullpen.

Iwakuma took the loss, allowing 10 hits with no walks and one

strikeout.

”I don’t think the pressure of pitching here got to him,”

Wedge said. ”He threw the ball well but couldn’t make the pitch to

finish off batters. If he does that it’s a different

ballgame.”

Ichiro Suzuki was 0 for 4 but made a fine defensive play in the

fifth inning that drew cheers from the near-capacity crowd of

43,759. With runners at first and third, the right fielder caught a

deep fly ball off the bat of Yoshiyuki Kamei and held a runner at

third with an accurate throw to the plate.

Houlton, who got the win, gave up two runs and three hits in

five innings.

Seattle lost both of its exhibitions against Japanese opposition

but Wedge said he wasn’t worried about his team.

”It’s a completely different atmosphere here and, obviously, we

didn’t play good baseball,” Wedge said. ”But we had a good spring

and I trust my guys and I’m sure we’ll turn the switch on for

opening day and be ready to go.”

Yomiuri took a 2-1 lead in the second on Kenji Yano’s double,

but Seattle tied it in the third when Ackley tripled leading off

and scored on Suzuki’s groundout.

Shuichi Murata, one of Yomiuri’s big offseason signings, hit a

two-run single with two outs in a four-run third, and Hayato

Sakamoto had a two-run single in the fourth for a 6-2 lead.

Kyle Seager singled in a run for Seattle in the sixth, but the

Giants boosted their margin to 8-3 in the bottom half when

Hisayoshi Chono scored from third on a passed ball by Guillermo

Quiroz and Takahiro Suzuki stole home.

Kamei had a solo homer in the seventh against Charlie

Furbush.