Weaver, Mariners rally to beat Sox
Righty allows just three early runs; bats battle back for win
SEATTLE -- The picket-fence look on the scoreboard in the early innings Saturday night didn't faze Mariners right-hander Jeff Weaver.He has seen enough come-from-behind wins this season to know what the Mariners hitters can do, so dishing out solo home runs in the first and fourth innings and surrendering another run in the second was not that big of a deal. "The mentality I think all of us starting pitchers should take right now is keep the game close and let our offense do the work late," he said. "They got me a few times, but solo shots usually keep you in the ballgame and in typical Mariners style, about the sixth inning, the [offense] makes things happen." A four-run outburst by the Mariners in the sixth inning -- most of it against a pitcher who had surrendered just two hits to his previous 32 batters -- erased a two-run deficit and carried Seattle to a 7-5 victory over the Jim Thome-powered White Sox in front of 41,121 at Safeco Field. The win moved the Mariners (68-52) within two games of the Angels in the American League West and they remained a half-game ahead of the Yankees in the Wild Card. Whereas the Mariners used a balanced attack for their latest victory, finishing with 13 hits overall and at least one from every starter except Ichiro Suzuki, the White Sox hung in there with virtually a one-man show. Thome hit two home runs and would have a third if not for Raul Ibanez making a leaping catch at the fence in left field in the top of the sixth inning, a shot that would have restored a three-run White Sox lead. "That's a strong man," Weaver said. "I couldn't believe the ball went that far on that pitch. Thome typically is a pull hitter and he caught me off guard a little bit, going the other way. I know he's strong, but to go the other way at Safeco is pretty impressive. He made it look pretty easy." But Ibanez's highlight-reel catch excited the near-sellout crowd and possibly ignited yet another come-from-behind victory for the Mariners, who lead the Major Leagues with 36 this improbable season. Richie Sexson's double to left field off side-winding reliever Ehren Wassermann keyed a go-ahead, four-run burst in the bottom of the sixth, which started with Adrian Beltre lining a leadoff single into left-center field off White Sox starter John Danks. Tha prompted manager Ozzie Guillen to replace Danks with Wasserman -- who had held opposing hitters to a .063 batting average in his previous 11 outings. Wassermann quickly went ahead in the count to Sexson before the first baseman ripped a line drive one-hopper off the wall in left field, sending Beltre to third. Kenji Johjima followed with a first-pitch single up the middle to score Beltre with the go-ahead run and Sexson was waved home after center fielder Jerry Owens' very high throw eluded catcher A.J. Pierzyski and came to rest between the pad and screen behind home plate. By the end of the inning, Beltre had batted again and the Sox had incensed their skipper -- again -- with two errors and a run-scoring wild pitch. "We're not coaching, we're not hitting, we're not running, we're not playing defense," he said of the AL Central cellar-dwelling White Sox. "We're doing everything wrong and that's what you get [last place] when you play like that." The Mariners have beaten the White Sox six times in their last six meetings and are 20-8 against Chicago at Safeco Field since 2001 -- the best success against any other team. But the latest one, as did Friday night's 5-4 victory, had some late drama. And it was left-handed reliever George Sherrill providing it by surrendered a home run. On Friday night, it was a grand slam to lefty hitting rookie Danny Richar in the seventh inning, and Saturday night it was Thome hitting a two-run shot in the eighth. "George is getting behind [in the count] to the hitters a little bit and has gotten hurt by the long ball the last couple of nights," McLaren said. "I think it's just a matter of him getting his control back a little bit, getting ahead of the hitters so he can use his other pitches. "We need to get him back to being the old George again." Right-handers Sean Green and J.J. Putz recorded the final four outs with Putz notching his league-leading 36th save -- matching his output last season in his first season as Seattle's closer. Weaver improved his record to 5-10 with his third consecutive victory this month. He retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced before giving way to Sherrill in the eighth inning, two outs after walking Richar to start the inning. The full-count pitch was close and Weaver kept asking plate umpire Paul Emmel, "Where was that pitch?" McLaren came out of the dugout to calm down his pitcher with the idea that a move would be made to bring in Sherrill if Thome came to bat in the inning. "Weav pitched well, but he was kind of a tale of two pitchers out there," McLaren said. "He made a couple of mistakes and gave up a couple of long balls." But the bottom line was another home victory for the Mariners, who improved their home record to 40-24, tying the Angels for the most home wins among AL teams. The home infield played a role in Seattle's latest comeback win. The Mariners tied the game at 3 with two outs in the fifth, thanks to Jose Guillen's wicked-hop single past third baseman Josh Fields, who took his position expecting the ball to come right to him. But the ball took a crazy hop, nearly hit him in the face, and went into left field, scoring Jose Lopez from third and Yuniesky Betancourt from second. "That ball was blistered and had some backspin on it," McLaren said. "We'll take it."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.