Pitching matchup draws huge interest in native country with more than 50 Japanese media members covering Mariners-Yankees series finale.

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NEW YORK — It never turned into a shutdown pitchers’ duel on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, but Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka gave their teams and their country seven innings of solid work each.

In the 12th matchup between Japanese-born starting pitchers in major-league history, Tanaka was just a little better than his former teammate on the Rakuten Golden Eagles, allowing one run fewer and picking up the win in the Yankees’ 4-3 defeat of the Mariners.

Tanaka (1-0) allowed three runs on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Iwakuma (0-2) gave up four runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

The Mariners scored all three runs off Tanaka in the first five innings. But when his teammates gave him a one-run lead in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch from Iwakuma, Tanaka made it stand up, retiring the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings.

“I’m extremely satisfied being able to get that win,” Tanaka said through an interpreter to New York reporters. “Obviously facing off against a former teammate, that was one thing, but another thing was that I was able to help stop the four-game skid. In that sense, I think today was a good day.”

Iwakuma was hesitant to make much of the matchup in the days leading up to it, but enjoyed competing against his friend and former teammate.

“It’s very exciting to face your ex-teammate,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “Just watching him in general, he was pitching with composure and he kept the ball down. Looking at that, I said, ‘I’ve got to keep the ball down, too, against this lineup.’ I was able to make that adjustment, but it was kind of too late. They made me pay for that.”

Iwakuma’s biggest mistake came in the second inning. After getting a 1-0 lead from his team in the first inning, Iwakuma hit Brian McCann with the first pitch in the bottom of the second. His next pitch, an 85 mph sinker that stayed over the middle, was crushed into the left-field stands by Alex Rodriguez for a two-run homer. He later gave up two more runs.

The pitching matchup drew a high level of attention in Japan. There were more than 50 Japanese media members at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

Mariners left fielder Norichika Aoki understood the importance and source of pride a game like this meant to Japan.

“It’s always exciting to be part of a game like this where ex-teammates face each other here in America on the big stage,” Aoki said. “That’s always fun. I’m sure all the fans in Japan, in our country, were very excited.”


• There wasn’t a need to use Joaquin Benoit in Sunday’s game but manager Scott Servais probably would have passed on the opportunity.

“We’ll be careful there,” Servais said before the game. “I’d like to give him some down time. I don’t think we need to go three in a row or two in a row. It’s about the whole season. I would love to have him available. I know the last six days without him you have to manage it differently. I want to keep him available for as long as possible.”

Servais was impressed with Benoit’s first outing after missing time with minor shoulder tightness.

“I thought he looked good,” Servais said. “I thought he looked free and easy. I didn’t think there were any restrictions. He was getting after it. Changeup was good, fastball had plenty of life. It was probably better than I thought it would be.”

• For the game, the Mariners’ Nos. 1-4 hitters went 5 for 16, while the Nos. 5-9 batters went 1 for 17.