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Originally published June 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 28, 2008 at 12:06 AM

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M's don't leave starter stranded

The sights greeting Jarrod Washburn during his long dugout stretches between turns on the mound were hardly encouraging. Inning by inning, his...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tonight

Mariners @ San Diego,

7:05 p.m., FSN

SAN DIEGO — The sights greeting Jarrod Washburn during his long dugout stretches between turns on the mound were hardly encouraging.

Inning by inning, his fellow Mariners kept putting runners on base and marooning them there at an unprecedented clip. By the time this 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday night was complete, a team-record 18 runners had been stranded — just two shy of the major-league mark for a nine-inning affair.

It would have been easy for Washburn to fear the worst. After all, he'd entered the night with the worst run support of any American League starter, then saw the Mariners leave the bases loaded the first two innings and strand two more runners in the third with the game still scoreless.

"You can't think things like that," Washburn said. "You end up taking that to the mound and make mistakes."

So the veteran left-hander took things one step further. Instead of stranding opposing runners when he was on the mound, he instead spent most of his night not allowing any runners to reach base, period.

He used a modified delivery to retire 13 of 14 batters in one stretch, giving up a lone single between the first and seventh innings. The only runs he allowed came on a home run by Chase Headley in the seventh, briefly igniting the crowd of 28,640 at Petco Park.

But Washburn settled down from there and went on to record his first victory since May 5.

Adrian Beltre drove in three of the five Seattle runs.

Beltre bounced a two-run single up the middle in the fourth off losing pitcher Randy Wolf, then notched an infield hit in the ninth to cash in a huge insurance marker. Raul Ibanez added an RBI single in the fourth, while Kenji Johjima had a run-scoring double in the sixth to give Seattle a 4-0 lead at the time.

"We had a lot of opportunities," Beltre said. "We probably didn't do as well as we wanted to, but we got the job done. We got the win."

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman was so pleased with Washburn's work that he left him out there in the eighth. There were two out and a runner on third in a 4-2 game, with Washburn's pitch count bulging at 114 and Padres cleanup man Adrian Gonzalez at the plate.

Washburn wound up walking Gonzalez intentionally after he failed to bite on some early offerings. Brandon Morrow came on and notched the four-out save, but not before Washburn received his manager's vote of confidence loud and clear.

"It lets me know he has confidence in me," Washburn said. "I came out after the seventh inning and he said, 'Be honest with me. Let me know if you have anything left.' "

Plenty of other teams may want to know that as well as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Washburn has thrown 118 and a season-high 119 pitches his last two starts, and he may be raising his trade value at just the right time.

The mechanical modification he recently made was a correction to a change to his delivery from early in the season. That first change is something he said hampered his ability to get the ball over the plate like he wanted.

"The thing I changed was causing big problems later," he said.

And Washburn thinks it's no coincidence he's throwing better. An advance scout for an AL East team, who watched Washburn pitch the past two times out, said this is the strongest and sharpest his arm has looked all season.

Washburn believes that before the latest mechanical change, he wasn't getting as much on his pitches as he could have been.

"It's shown in the results," he said. "My command is a lot better. I'm hitting the spots more often."

The Mariners finally hit some balls when they had to in the fourth, when Ibanez singled with two on to open the scoring. An error allowed the runners to move up to second and third and Beltre's two-run single brought them home.

That helped chase Wolf early. But Wolf, despite allowing eight hits and five walks in his 3-1/3-inning, 97-pitch stint, wound up charged with only two earned runs.

Seattle's previous team record for runners left on had been 16, done four times. But the new mark was set when Morrow lined out to right with the bases loaded in the ninth.

"Eighteen guys left on is a lot of guys feeling like they could have had a few RBIs tonight," Riggleman said. "But the key is, you're trying to win a ballgame. We won it and we're happy with that."

Washburn had plenty to do with that.

"He's really pitched good four or five times in a row," Riggleman said. "He's throwing strikes, working fast, letting his defense help him, using his off-speed stuff. All the clichés you use for successful pitching, he's been doing it."

And if he keeps doing it, teams other than the Mariners will start taking notice.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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