After starring as one of baseball's top pitchers for most of the season, Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma must find a way to regroup after two straight defeats.
The Mariners might depend on it considering their offensive struggles.Iwakuma looks to avoid dropping a third straight start Friday night when he takes the mound in the series opener with the Chicago Cubs at Safeco Field.Iwakuma (7-3, 2.26 ERA) posted a 1.70 ERA while going undefeated in nine straight outings, eight of them quality starts. Then Oakland handed him two straight losses as he gave up eight runs and 14 hits over 12 innings. He went seven innings in last Friday's 6-3 setback, yielding four runs."He gave us a chance to win the ballgame, he just wasn't quite as sharp with his secondary stuff," manager Eric Wedge said.Oakland connected for three homers off Iwakuma, who had held opponents homerless in his previous four starts."Overall, I thought I felt pretty good on the mound," he said. "My pitches were there, it's just those home runs that I gave up were not where I wanted them location-wise and they cost me."Seattle's offense, which is batting an AL-worst .236, continues to sputter, going 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position over the last three contests.Raul Ibanez remains one of the lone bright spots, homering four times over the last four games, but his 18th of the year couldn't help the Mariners avoid a 4-2 home loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday."We've got to hit. It's time to hit," Wedge said after Seattle (34-45) stranded 10 runners. "You're not going to win games unless you hit."The Cubs (33-44) have been enjoying some good offense lately, slugging .517 over their last four games while scoring 29 runs. Chicago, which is slugging .404 on the season, has totaled 13 doubles in its last four -- the same number it tallied in its previous 12 contests.Anthony Rizzo is 6 for 15 with six RBIs in the last four, though he was 0 for 4 in Thursday's 7-2 win at Milwaukee. He's also hit safely in 10 of 11 interleague games this season, batting .405 with four homers and 17 RBIs, but he was 1 for 10 with five strikeouts in three games versus Seattle as a rookie in 2011, with San Diego.Though the Cubs own one of the NL's worst records, they're 8-3 against the AL.Scheduled starter Travis Wood (5-6, 2.85), is looking to end his own three-game skid. He didn't receive a decision his last time out, however, after yielding three runs over six-plus innings in a 4-3 loss to Houston on Saturday."I missed bad," Wood said of his pitch to J.D. Martinez, leading to a three-run homer in the sixth. "It was supposed to be back door and ended it up coming all the way across the plate and that just can't happen."Both Wood and Iwakuma will be making their first starts against their respective opponents. Wood is 2/3 with a 4.01 ERA in eight career starts versus AL teams, while Iwakuma has never made a start against the NL but went 1-0 with a 5.87 ERA over 7 2/3 innings in six relief appearances last year.
Hisashi Iwakuma has thrown 56 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, tied for third-best in the AL among pitchers with at least 10 starts. Hitters have a line drive on 16 percent of the balls put in play on those pitches, tied for fifth-best in the AL.