Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma aims to get back on track and remain dominant at home when he takes the mound Friday in the opener of a three-game series versus the Chicago Cubs at Safeco Field.
Iwakuma has lost back-to-back starts since his nine-game unbeaten streak (5-0) and has allowed four runs in each of his previous outings. Iwakuma fell victim to the Oakland Athletics in last Friday's 6-3 loss, as he allowed four runs and six hits, including a season-high three homers, in seven innings.
The Japanese right-hander, who has allowed two or more home runs in a game four times this season, is now 7-3 with a 2.26 earned run average in 16 starts. Iwakuma, though, is 3-1 in eight outings at Safeco Field with a 1.46 ERA and 52 strikeouts (3 walks).
Seattle hopes Iwakuma's first appearance versus the Cubs goes well since the club has dropped two straight, five of seven and seven of its last 10 games. The Mariners lost both matchups with Pittsburgh in the middle of the week and are coming off Wednesday's 4-2 setback in which Felix Hernandez wasted seven innings of two-run ball and 11 strikeouts for a no-decision.
Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth to absorb the loss and Yoervis Medina surrendered a run as well. Raul Ibanez registered his 18th home run in a losing effort.
"I think it's important for us to just stay focused on the ultimate goal, which is winning," said Ibanez. "This is the major leagues, the only thing that matters here is winning."
The Mariners are 2-3 on an eight-game homestand and 20-20 in the Emerald City.
Chicago opened its nine-game road trip by taking two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers and posted a 7-2 win Thursday.
Dioner Navarro's three-run homer backed a four-run third inning and his battery mate, starting pitcher Matt Garza, was solid through seven innings, allowing only a run with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Garza is 2-0 in his last three starts and has yielded only two runs in that span.
"His last three starts have been as good as anybody," Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "That's good to have."
The Cubs, who will also visit Oakland on this road trip, have lost each of Travis Wood's last four starts and he is 0-3 with a decent 3.12 earned run average in that time. Wood gets the call again Friday and is coming off a no- decision versus Houston last Saturday, when he yielded three runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss.
Wood is only 1-4 in his last five decisions and owns a 5-6 record with a 2.85 ERA in 15 starts. The left-hander has never faced Seattle.
Chicago and Seattle are meeting for the first since the Mariners won two of three matchups in the Emerald City in 2010.