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09/10/08 9:29 PM ET
Ibanez, Ichiro lead Mariners' charge
Seattle players don't have to watch Angels celebrate
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Bullpen Day for one team turned into home run derby for the other on Wednesday afternoon. But in the end -- and to the relief of the Mariners -- power took a back seat to timely hitting, as Seattle held on for an 8-7 victory over the Rangers in front of 23,644 at Safeco Field and several thousand interested spectators at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. About an hour before Mariners closer J.J. Putz buzzed a game-ending third strike past Rangers shortstop Michael Young, Angels closer Frankie Rodriguez did the exact same thing in Anaheim to finish off the Yankees -- a combination that clinched the Angels' fourth American League West crown in the past five years. The end of the Mariners-Rangers game was played on the big screen at Angel Stadium, making Putz a popular figure there. "I guess so," Putz said. For what it's worth, at least the Mariners won't have to watch the Angels celebrate their latest accomplishment during an upcoming four-game series in Anaheim. "We had to watch them celebrate last year, and you don't want to have them celebrate in your face," said Putz, who picked up his 13th save of the season with Wednesday's 1-2-3 ninth inning. "I feel pretty good right now," he added. "I can throw pretty much all my pitches for strikes. Unfortunately, it's September right now. It would have been nice to have this back in April." Putz, who now has 99 career saves, missed 18 games in April and 31 more in June because of injuries. He's healthy again, better late than never. The Mariners' offense has been alive and well since the All-Star break and added another 15 hits in Wednesday's series finale. The top third of the lineup had 10 hits and scored five runs. Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez each went 4-for-5 -- becoming the first teammates since Sept. 25, 2006, to have four hits in the same game -- and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt went 2-for-4. Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo, batting seventh, also had two hits, and catcher Kenji Johjima, the eighth-place hitter, delivered a crucial two-run single to the assault on three Rangers pitchers. The third and fourth of Ibanez's four hits scored Ichiro in the sixth and seventh eighth innings, giving Seattle just enough runs to hold off Texas' bashers. "With the way our offense has been since the All-Star break, and the way their offense is period, you can count on a lot of things happening out there," Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "There are not many days when it's a low-scoring game when both of these teams are firing on all cylinders." Bullpen Day started out well for the Mariners. Regular relievers Cesar Jimenez and Jared Wells held the Rangers to one hit and no runs over the first four innings, and the Mariners were leading 4-0 going into the fifth inning. But a pair of two-run home runs off Wells turned the series finale into a nip-and-tuck affair. While the top of Seattle's lineup kept getting on base and scoring runs, the Rangers relied on home runs from Nelson Cruz, Taylor Teagarden, Hank Blalock and Chris Davis to stay close. The Mariners built an early lead against Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood, beginning with a run in the first inning, when Ichiro led off with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third when catcher Teagargen's throw sailed into center field. Betancourt scored Ichiro with an infield out. Seattle loaded the bases with none out in the second inning but settled for two runs, both coming on Johjima's single to center. The Mariners tacked on another run in the third on a walk and the first of two doubles by Ibanez. Jimenez made his first start of the season -- the second of his big league career -- and was lifted after throwing 48 pitches over three innings. "He did a good job," Riggleman said. "We were hoping to get three innings out of him and then had some choices to make." Right-hander Roy Corcoran, the fifth of seven relievers used, improved to 5-0, and the Mariners emerged with their 57th victory of the season and a split in the two-game series. "It was a very good win, a lot of positives came out of this game," Putz said. Riggleman agreed. "That is a really tough club to hold down, and we had a lot of great performances," he said. "[Jose] Batista and J.J. were outstanding. [Jose] Lopez didn't get a hit, but he twice gave himself up to move runners to third. A lot of good things happened." And one of the best things to emerge from the game is not having to watch the Angels celebrate another division title up close and personal. "They were able to accomplish what everyone wants to accomplish, and I'll leave it there," Riggleman said. "I never watch anybody celebrate. Hopefully, someday we'll be the ones doing it."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.