SEATTLE—With the Seattle Mariners making a push for their first playoff appearance since 2001, Kendrys Morales might be the perfect hitter to help make it happen.
Morales, acquired from Minnesota before the trade deadline, hit a two-run home run in the first inning last night to back a stellar start by Hisashi Iwakuma and lead the Mariners to a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Morales now has four extra-base hits in three games—twice what he recorded in his first 15 games with the club since joining the team.
“He brought it as soon as he got here—respectability, stretch the lineup out,” Mariners’ manager Lloyd McClendon said.
“He hasn’t got the results he wanted but I was happy to see him in there right from the start.”
Iwakuma (11-6) failed to finish seven innings for the first time in eight starts, but the right-hander still struck out five without issuing a walk in 6 2/3 innings.
It is the seventh time in that stretch Iwakuma has allowed two runs or fewer.
“It’s a big series,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
“Winning two . . . was big and I needed to finish up the series strong.”
Three relievers bridged the gap to closer Fernando Rodney, who earned his 35th save in 38 chances.
The Mariners won eight-of-nine on their homestand and remained tied with Detroit for the AL’s second wild card.
The Jays, meanwhile, lost for the ninth time in 12 games to drop three games behind the final playoff berth.
“We have been streaky, both good and bad, and we are due for a good one,” said Toronto starter R.A. Dickey.
Dickey (9-12) was shaky at times, but only allowed two runs and seven hits with four walks in six innings.
The Mariners threatened numerous times to extend the lead, but Dickey was able to strand at least two runners three separate times.
The third proved to be the veteran’s greatest escape act as he avoided a one-out, runners-on-the-corners situation by inducing a double-play grounder.
Elsewhere in the AL, Minnesota beat Houston 3-1, Baltimore downed New York 5-3, Kansas City blanked Oakland 3-0, and Tampa Bay dumped Texas 10-1.