NEW YORK — In a match-up of old friends from the Far East, Hisashi Iwakuma made one mistake too many.
Alex Rodriguez snapped his hitless skid with an early two-run homer off Iwakuma that sent the New York Yankees past the Seattle Mariners 4-3 on April 17 ending their four-game losing streak.
Masahiro Tanaka topped Iwakuma in the first major league pitching matchup between former Japanese teammates, a game that was broadcast live on television back home — at 2 a.m. in Tokyo.
“I was very excited to face (my) ex-teammate,” Iwakuma said through a translator. “Just watching him, in general, he was pitching with composure and he kept the ball down. Looking at that, I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to keep the ball down, too.’ And I was able to make adjustments, but it was kind of too late.”
The 35-year-old Iwakuma, teammates with the 27-year-old Tanaka from 2007-11 on the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, was charged with four runs and eight hits in seven innings.
Steve Clevenger had an RBI single for the Mariners, who had won three straight following a five-game slide. Nori Aoki tripled and scored on Seth Smith’s single.
Brett Gardner had three hits, including an RBI double that stopped New York’s 0-for-30 slump with runners in scoring position. He scored the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch by Iwakuma (0-2) in the fifth.
New York avoided a three-game sweep thanks in large part to Tanaka (1-0), who yielded three runs — two earned — and six hits in seven efficient innings. He struck out six and walked none, improving to 4-0 in four career starts against the Mariners.
“Just extremely satisfied being able to get that win,” Tanaka said through a translator.
Hitters in the bottom five spots in Seattle’s lineup combined to go 1 for 17. Aoki had the team’s lone extra-base hit.
Tanaka worked out of a bases-loaded jam in a 24-pitch first inning, when Kyle Seager drove in a run with a groundout. The right-hander needed only 93 pitches to get through seven.
“He was mixing it up. You never know what he’s going to throw,” Clevenger said. “He’s got good stuff. He commands the zone really well. In and out with his cutter, and his split just disappears on you.”
Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller combined to strike out all six batters they faced on 13 pitches apiece, with Miller working the ninth for his third save.
“They’re really good back there,” Mariners Manager Scott Servais said. “It was a good ballgame. We were right there in it, battling. I thought Kumo kept the ball down better later in the game than he did early. Tight game, but the back of their bullpen’s really good.”
Rodriguez, dropped three spots to sixth in a struggling Yankees lineup, homered on the first pitch he saw after Iwakuma plunked Brian McCann in the second inning.
The 40-year-old designated hitter was without a hit in his previous 19 at-bats, two shy of matching the longest drought of his career.
The three-time MVP sent an 86 mph fastball into the lower-deck seats in left field. It was the 689th home run for Rodriguez, who ranks fourth on the career list.
A season after hitting 33 homers, A-Rod began the day batting .100 (3-for-30) with one home run and two RBIs.
(MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer)