SEATTLE — Kyle Seager made his first Father’s Day as a dad a memorable one.
With his son, Crue, in the stands, the Mariners third baseman went 4-for-4 with two doubles and drove in three runs, leading his team to a much-needed 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday at Safeco Field.
Seager and his wife, Julie, became first-time parents in the offseason. And though Crue will have little recognition of being among the 39,196 in attendance, he was still there when his father delivered a brilliant performance at the plate, lifting the Mariners out of their hitting doldrums and helping snap a five-game losing streak. The four hits tied a career high, which he has done five times in his career.
“It’s really exciting,” Seager said of playing well on Father’s Day. “But I’m probably more excited to get home and spend some time with him today.”
After singling in his first two at-bats off Texas starter Nick Martinez, Seager gave his team the lead for good in the fifth inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Seager doubled into the right-field corner, scoring Endy Chavez and Robinson Cano to put the M’s up 2-1.
Seager had never faced the Rangers rookie, who was making just his seventh MLB start.
“We had some video,” Seager said. “But nobody had ever seen him or knew too much about him. You can watch video and get his velocities on his pitches, but it’s different once you step in the box.”
Seager added to the lead in the eighth, again doubling into right field off lefty reliever Robbie Ross Jr. to score pinch-runner Cole Gillespie from first base to make it 3-1.
“I think he came out really determined today,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He probably didn’t play one of his best games (Saturday) night. He came out very determined and was big for us.”
Seager’s teammates followed his lead. Mike Zunino singled and Dustin Ackley dumped a broken-bat bloop single into center to score Seager to make it 4-1. Brad Miller later pushed the lead to 5-1, scoring Zunino with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“That was really big there to extend it and have a little bit of breathing room,” Seager said.
The extra cushion was a pleasant bonus that helped secure a well-deserved victory for Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma pitched eight innings, giving up just one run on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks to improve to 5-3 and lower his earned-run average to 2.59.
Not bad for a guy who almost didn’t start the game.
“Kuma threw the ball extremely well,” McClendon said. “He had some problems with his neck warming up. I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make his start.”
According to Iwakuma, he felt fine when he woke up. But as he stretched out before the game, he felt tightness and discomfort in his neck.
“I thought it was going to be OK,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “But as I started to play catch, I felt pain in the lower part of neck that was working its way up.”
Iwakuma called for the Mariners training staff. They worked on the neck and stretched out Iwakuma, trying to relieve the discomfort.
“I felt a little bit better,” he said.
But it wasn’t completely gone. That is when the possibility of not making the start became real.
“To be honest, as I was playing catch before my bullpen, I did feel that way,” Iwakuma said. “But I needed to pitch today. I felt responsible, especially with us losing five in a row. I wanted to go out there and give it all I got.”
Iwakuma’s neck started to loosen in the bullpen and he went to the mound. The stiffness was still there, but it had lessened.
He certainly didn’t pitch like he was bothered by neck pain.
The only run he allowed came in the second inning when he left a sinker up to Brad Snyder on the first pitch of the at-bat. Snyder, who was called up to replace an injured Mitch Moreland, blasted it into the Mariners bullpen for his first major-league home run. But that was it for the Rangers. They got just three more hits off Iwakuma over the next six innings. And never got a runner to second base.