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05/17/09 9:11 PM ET
Mariners capitalize on error to top Sox
Gutierrez has first career walk-off hit in ninth inning
By Bob Sherwin / Special to MLB.com
SEATTLE -- It's not that the Mariners have thoroughly enjoyed all their one-run games they've played this season, but it sure helps their psyche when they turn them into one-run wins. The Mariners evened their record in one-run games to 8-8 on Sunday with a 3-2 decision over the Red Sox on Franklin Gutierrez's two-out ninth-inning single through the left side. It scored Ronny Cedeno, who reached second on a pivotal throwing error. It was Gutierrez's first career walk-off hit. "We did a pretty good job. We fight until the end, and we take the game," Gutierrez said. "In that situation, [Ramon Ramirez] threw me a changeup first pitch. Then he comes back with another changeup. I was trying to look for a good pitch to hit. He threw it in the right spot, and I hit it good." The Mariners took two out of three from the Red Sox, also winning Friday's game in one-run comeback fashion, 5-4. This is a Seattle team that had been crushed the final two games in Arlington, losing one-run decisions in the Rangers' final at-bat. "Look at us. We lost games just like that. We were in that other [losing] clubhouse just four days ago," said reliever David Aardsma, who earned the win. "Against Texas, we got beat at the last moment. Then we go out and beat a team like that. Now, we know we can beat anybody." Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said that coming off the team's 1-7 road trip to face Boston "and our backs against the wall like they were, you try to have a short memory with some struggles. I think, to go out there and win the ballgame and never give up is a tremendous credit to this club." Closer Brandon Morrow had blown both of those games vs. Texas, prompting Wakamatsu to move Aardsma (1-1) into the closing role. He saved Friday's win and won Sunday's game. In both, he had to deal with the top of the Red Sox's lineup, pesky hitters Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. He induced both of them to fly out on Sunday. "Ellsbury is a tough hitter, and Pedroia, obviously, is the MVP," Aardsma said. "You don't want to be facing them with the game on the line. To pop them up definitely worked out pretty well." Cedeno got the winning rally started when he reached on an infield single, then he went to second when shortstop Nick Green's throw sailed into the stands. Ichiro Suzuki, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 11 games, was intentionally walked, bringing up Gutierrez. He bounced the second pitch from Ramirez into left field for the game-winner. Boston got a gift run in the second, when shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's error allowed J.D. Drew to escape a forceout at second. Drew eventually reached third and came home on Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly. The Mariners scored two in the second on Russell Branyan's leadoff home run, his ninth, on Justin Masterson's first pitch. Cedeno drove in the second run, a two-out triple that scored Betancourt from second. Both teams had golden run-scoring opportunities in the fifth. Boston loaded the bases with no outs, but Jason Bay popped out and Mike Lowell hit into an inning-ending double play. "It was huge," said Mariners starter Jason Vargas of his tightrope walk. "They had the big part of the lineup coming up. To get them out of that was a big deal for us." Then in the bottom of the inning, Seattle put the first two hitters on, but Ken Griffey Jr. flied out and Adrian Beltre hit into a double play. There was a strange play for the Mariners in the sixth. With Wladimir Balentien on first and one out, Rob Johnson sacrifice bunted a ball toward first. He broke off his run toward first, because the pitch hit him on the hand. Balentien, believing the ball was foul, was tagged out when he walked back to first. "It was a confusing play," Wakamatsu said. "When Rob was in so much pain, he didn't run, giving an indication it was a foul ball." Johnson, who left the game after the at-bat, had X-rays taken, but it was negative for his index and middle fingers. He may be out a couple of days. Vargas went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) and seven hits. He struck out just one and walked three. It was his second straight solid start in which he lasted at least five innings, but he threw 98 pitches. "I think he had good day," Wakamatsu said. "He just ran out of gas toward the end. Facing a team like Boston, that'll get to you, especially a young pitcher." The bullpen held it there, as Sean White, Mark Lowe and Aardsma allowed just one hit over the final 3 2/3 innings. "It's about a belief system," Wakamatsu added. "If we can be a team like Boston in our ballpark, that's a stepping-stone to where we're trying to go." The Mariners continue their homestand on Monday night with the first of four games against the Los Angeles Angels.
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.