Lineup switch jolts Mariners in 8-2 win
The first five hitters in the Mariners order combined for 13 hits and scored all but one of the Mariners' runs in an 8-2 victory over Baltimore before 17,978 at Safeco Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Orioles @ Mariners, 7 p.m., FSN
Ichiro could see the support behind him in Seattle's lineup on Tuesday.
One reason was that first baseman Russell Branyan was moved to second in the batting order for the first time this season.
"Probably the biggest No. 2 hitter in the world," Ichiro said later.
Another reason was the production that followed Seattle's leadoff hitter — the first five hitters in the Mariners order combined for 13 hits and scored all but one of the Mariners' runs in an 8-2 victory over Baltimore before 17,978 at Safeco Field.
"What I care about is these guys kind of meshing or clicking as a team," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "And this was the first time in a long time I felt we pressurized them every inning."
That was true right from the very first inning, when Ichiro led off with an infield hit to extend his hitting streak to a team-record 26 games.
Ichiro also began Monday's game with a hit, doubling and taking third on a throwing error. The difference is what happened next.
In the series opener, Ichiro had been stranded at third, and Seattle got only one more hit over the final eight innings in a 1-0 loss to the Orioles.
Tuesday night, Ichiro's infield single was followed by a single from Branyan and a two-out double from Jose Lopez. That set the tone for a game in which the top of Seattle's lineup was uncharacteristically productive, beginning with a two-run first and carrying through the eighth-inning home runs hit by Branyan and Ken Griffey Jr.
Turns out moving Branyan to the second spot had the same effect as a pair of jumper cables, sparking life into the lineup for at least one game.
Griffey doubled twice before his home run. Lopez hit three doubles and drove in three runs. And third baseman Adrian Beltre hit three singles.
The first five batters in Seattle's order had all but three of the team's 16 hits and drove in seven runs as the Mariners (25-28) burned through four Baltimore pitchers.
Afterward, Wakamatsu looked past the big bats to find the small things, like Yuniesky Betancourt's one-out ground ball to short that scored Beltre from third. Lopez also had a grounder to shortstop in the fifth, which also scored Beltre.
That gave Seattle starter Erik Bedard (4-2) all the support he needed in his first start against his former team. The left-hander allowed three hits in the first five innings — two of them doubles — but each time he left a runner in scoring position.
Bedard struck out six in the first six innings, including two in the sixth. One of those was Adam Jones, one of the players the Mariners traded to Baltimore in 2008 to acquire him. Bedard then struck out Aubrey Huff, ending the inning with a breaking ball so sharp it froze Huff stiff. The Orioles' cleanup hitter couldn't get the bat off his shoulder on the called third strike.
"Somebody asked me before the game if I thought he might get a little nervous against his old team," Wakamatsu said of Bedard. "Obviously, he wasn't. He was the same guy I've seen the last couple of outings where he's just really overpowering."
Bedard left the game with one out in the seventh after walking two consecutive batters. He finished with seven strikeouts and threw 112 pitches, his season high, before being relieved by Sean White with the bases loaded. Bedard lowered his ERA to 2.37, fourth-best in the league.
The Orioles scored their first run when pinch-hitter Luke Scott grounded out to first. White got the final out when he stretched to field Brian Roberts' bouncer up the middle.
Denny Stark pitched the ninth for Seattle, giving up one run, but by that time the top of Seattle's lineup had erased most of the uncertainty about the outcome.
Branyan hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Griffey followed with a solo homer two batters later — the 617th home run of his career — as the Mariners' lineup ended the game the way it began, with lots of pop behind Ichiro.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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