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TOR@SEA: Rodriguez wins it with a walk-off single

SEATTLE -- Luis Rodriguez might be the 25th player on the Mariners' roster, but the utility infielder came up with the biggest hit of the young season Monday to cap a dramatic 8-7 victory over Toronto and snap a seven-game losing streak.

Rodriguez, who replaced an injured Chone Figgins in the fourth inning, finished off a 10-pitch battle with Blue Jays reliever Shawn Camp by ripping a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the ninth, walking off as the Mariners overcame a 7-0 deficit.

The Mariners scored seven runs in the final two frames against a Blue Jays bullpen that came into the game with a league-leading 1.11 ERA.

After Michael Saunders led off the ninth with a double, the Mariners sacrificed him to third. With two outs, the Blue Jays chose to intentionally walk Ichiro Suzuki to pitch to Rodriguez, who came into the at-bat hitting .091 (1-for-11) on the season.

Ichiro wound up stealing second during Rodriguez's long duel, then scored the winning run behind Saunders when Rodriguez stroked a Camp change-up into the right-center-field gap.

"I knew the situation, especially with our seven-game losing streak," said Rodriguez, a career .243 hitter whose only previous walk-off hit came in 2008 for the Padres. "This win is really big for us."

Big? The victory lifted a giant boulder off the Mariners' chests after a long week in which they were continually unable to produce with runners in scoring position, and then saw staff ace Felix Hernandez struggle for six innings against a Blue Jays team that took a seven-run lead into the bottom of the seventh.

But Milton Bradley hit a solo home run in the seventh and the Mariners rallied for five more in the eighth -- on three bases-loaded walks and a two-run single from Justin Smoak -- then won it with Rodriguez's heroics in the ninth.

"We took our chances with a guy hitting .091 versus a perennial All-Star," said Toronto manager John Farrell, "and we'd do it again."

For the Mariners, it was the perfect ending to a very imperfect night in a game they stranded 13 runners and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring posiition until the eighth inning, yet somehow overcame a seven-run deficit for just the fifth time in club history.

"That was probably the best at-bat by a guy on our team all year, fighting and finally getting the hit we've been looking for the past five or six games," Saunders said. "We've been in a lot of games that haven't gone our way and we finally got that key hit. We've got a bunch of smiles on our faces. This is something we needed."

Even Hernandez, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, was grinning despite giving up 12 hits and seven runs in his first appearance this season at Safeco Field.

The 12 hits were the most he's surrendered since a 13-hit barrage by the Angels in a 6-5 loss on Sept. 24, 2008. Hernandez, who gave up seven earned runs on three occasions last year, saw his ERA double to 4.50 on the young season.

"Every pitch I threw, they were hitting," Hernandez said. "The sinker wasn't good, right in the middle of the plate. It was just a bad game. One of those nights. Everything was a little up. But we won the game and that's the most important thing. I was disappointed because I wanted a good outing for my teammates and team, but we won the game and that's what it's all about."

Hernandez wasn't helped much early. Seattle couldn't punch across any runs against starter Jesse Litsch despite five hits and four walks in his five-inning stint.

A crowd of 13,056, the smallest since Safeco Field opened in 1999, endured a long night when the Mariners (3-7) twice loaded the bases in the first three innings without scoring and stranded 12 runners on base until their seven-run outburst in the final two frames.

The Mariners lost Figgins to a bruised thumb suffered when he got hit in the glove hand diving for a hard shot by Jayson Nix in the second inning. Figgins stayed in through the third, but was then replaced by Rodriguez. Manager Eric Wedge said X-rays were negative and Figgins should be day-to-day.

As for the Mariners? Their day Tuesday will be better than the previous seven, thanks to an unbelievable rally by a struggling team against a top-flight bullpen on a day their ace got slapped around, capped by a winning hit by a guy many thought shouldn't even be on the team this season.

"This is my job," Rodriguez said with a shrug. "You've got to be ready every day. Utility guys have to be ready to go play any inning."

His teammates were a little more impressed.

"Unbelievable," said Saunders, who was perched on third throughout the winning at-bat as Rodriguez fouled off several pitches and hung on until he could deliver. "My heart is still going. We've been coming back the last four or five nights, but just haven't got that timely hit. It goes to show what kind of team we are. Now hopefully we can keep this going." Comments