Mariners edge Twins to even series
Washburn, Ichiro and Griffey all deliver in another close win
SEATTLE -- One-run games continue to be routine for the Maalox Mariners."They didn't warn me when I took this job that games would be this close," first-year manager Don Wakamatsu quipped Saturday after the Mariners pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Twins before 30,600 at Safeco Field. "But it's nice to be in one-run games, and win." The Mariners have played 56 games this season and 27 of them have been decided by one run. The club record for most one-run games in a season is 56 (in 1993) and at this rate, that record will fall long before Labor Day. Seattle (27-29) is 15-12 in one-run decisions and six of their last six games have been decided by one run. The latest nail-biter featured a 3-for-4 performance from Ichiro Suzuki, a go-ahead double by Ken Griffey Jr., superb starting pitching from left-hander Jarrod Washburn, and three scoreless innings from four relievers, including closer David Aardsma, who didn't allow a ball out of the infield, but still had to pitch out of a first-and-third situation to notch his ninth save. The final out, a routine grounder to second base, protected the lead Ichiro and Griffey combined to produce in the bottom of the eighth inning off Twins reliever Sean Henn. Ichiro's third hit of the game was a high chopper over Henn's head, and he sped around the bases when Griffey drilled a line drive into the left-center-field gap. It was Griffey's fifth extra-base hit in his last four games. And another game decided by one run. "I think we all enjoy playing close games," Aardsma said. "It means we're in a lot of our games. We haven't won them all, but we're sure in a lot of them." Ichiro, who had a career-best 27-game hitting streak end on Friday night, started a new one in the third inning of Saturday's game, drilling a sharp single into right field. Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn then retired the next seven batters before Franklin Gutierrez reached on a two-out infield single and scampered around the bases to score the game-tying run on Ichiro's drive that short-hopped the wall in right-center. The Mariners had fallen behind in the fourth inning when, with two outs and Joe Crede on first base, Mike Redmond hit a line drive into right-center that eluded Ichiro, scoring Crede with the game's first run. Crede started the inning with a first-pitch single into left field. He was batting with the bases loaded an inning earlier when Delmon Young, trying to score on ball that got past catcher Guillermo Quiroz, was tagged out at the plate by Washburn. "We're going to implement that play in Spring Training," Wakamatsu kidded. "You throw wild pitch and then throw [the runner] out at home." Washburn was fired up after the inning-ending play, which kept the game scoreless, pumping his fist and letting out a yell. He risked an injury by blocking the plate with his right leg. So be it. "I would rather run the risk of getting hurt and do everything I can to get that out and be able to look at myself in the mirror and say 'I gave it my best' than just let him score," Washburn said. "You know, that's the first guy I ever got out at home on a play like that. I looked at the replay and I did kind of block him off the plate. I dropped the leg down, "Q" [Quiroz] made a good throw and we got the guy out." And the emotional outburst? "I never know what I'm doing out there," Washburn said. Washburn departed after six innings and 96 pitches, taking with him his fourth no-decision of the season. He remains winless since April 21 despite allowing three runs over his last 19 innings. "It doesn't matter to me at all, if we win the game," Washburn said. "I think this is first game since my third start of year that we came out on top. It feels good to win. I don't care if I get the win or not, as long as we do. "I was getting pretty frustrating that every time I pitched, we lost." The Mariners actually won his start against the Athletics on May 2. The final score was 3-2. A key moment during Saturday's game occurred in the seventh inning when the Twins had runners on first and third with two outs and catcher Joe Mauer, batting .438 against the Mariners this season, due up next. Wakamatsu called for left-hander Garrett Olson, who would make his first relief appearance of the season a memorable one. "The biggest thing for me," Olson said, "was to try to slow it down. I haven't been in that situation before and I could have easily sped everything up, especially after falling behind [2-and-0]. My emotions were running high, so I tried to take my time and get my breathing under control." He retired Mauer on a grounder to second baseman Jose Lopez, who had prolonged the inning one batter earlier when he misplayed a grounder for error. Olson also faced the ever-dangerous Justin Morneau in the eighth inning and turned the game over to right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, who got two outs and his fourth win of the season.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.