Late rally does trick in ninth for Mariners
Three runs in ninth wins it for Seattle
Seattle Times staff reporter
Detroit @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
For the longest time, the most important work done this season by oft-maligned, seldom-used Mariners relief pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma looked like it would be for naught.
But the only reason the Mariners were jumping up and down in the bottom of the ninth Monday night, pounding teammates to the ground in celebration, was the job by Iwakuma and his bullpen teammates. They had held the Detroit Tigers at bay just long enough for the Mariners to rally for a 3-2 victory with three runs in that final frame against an erratic reliever who couldn't throw a strike when it mattered.
And so, in a game in which their own starter, Blake Beavan, had to leave after three innings with a bruised elbow courtesy of a line drive, the Mariners took the long road — as in relief — to come out on top.
"We mixed in a little bit of everything and he threw a lot of strikes today," Mariners catcher Jesus Montero said of Iwakuma. "It is important. That's why he's there. At that moment, we needed somebody and he was doing the right thing."
Iwakuma struck out five batters and allowed just a run over three innings after taking over from Beavan in a 1-0 game. The crowd of 14,462 at Safeco Field saw the Mariners handcuffed by former teammate Doug Fister for seven innings of four-hit shutout ball.
Things looked bleak when Phil Coke retired the side in the eighth, setting up the ninth for veteran reliever Octavio Dotel. The Tigers didn't have regular closer Jose Valverde or his usual fill-in, Joaquin Benoit, available and turned to Dotel, who simply could not find the strike zone.
Dotel walked Brendan Ryan after nearly hitting him with a pitch, then walked Ichiro as well. Two wild pitches brought Seattle's first run home and helped the count go full on Montero at the plate.
"You've got to look for the right pitch to hit and I think I found that right pitch," Montero said.
Dotel threw him a fastball down the middle and Montero was waiting, blistering a ball off the center-field wall for a tying double. In the dugout, the Mariners thought Montero might have won the game with a home-run swing.
"Those other two balls he hit out to center field earlier this season looked a lot like that," said John Jaso. "There was a lot of crack in the bat."
Jaso would have a chance to put some crack in his own bat after Kyle Seager bunted pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki to third base. Jaso stepped in against new reliever Duane Below — who had come on to face Seager — and managed to loft a high slider into right field.
A tagging Kawasaki just beat the throw with a slide into home, then got pounded to the turf by his celebrating teammates.
"I'm OK, but obviously we've got a lot of big guys here," Kawasaki said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "They're very powerful and I'm Japanese, so, it wasn't easy. But I'm OK."
It wasn't easy for the Mariners against Fister, who needed only 73 pitches to get through his seven innings. Nor for the Seattle relief corps after a Miguel Cabrera line drive off Beavan's elbow knocked him from the game.
Beavan was fortunate not to give up any runs on the play because there had been runners at the corners with one out. Instead, the ball deflected right to Seager at third to begin an unusual 1-5-4-3 double play.
"I sacrificed myself for the team, I guess," quipped Beavan. "It looked like a ground ball right to him (Seager), it was hit so hard."
Iwakuma caught a break as well after allowing a pair of two-out singles to Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch in the fourth that made it 2-0. Ryan Raburn ripped a drive down the left-field line that landed about an inch foul.
Raburn struck out after that and Iwakuma retired his final seven batters.
"I really feel like I'm a part of the team now," Iwakuma said through interpreter Daisuke Sekeiba. "I pitched a good game and we finally got a win."
Wedge liked the way Iwakuma changed speeds and locations, finishing the Tigers off with an improved-looking splitter.
Shawn Kelley and Charlie Furbush got Seattle through the seventh and eighth. Furbush got Cabrera to ground out to end the seventh with the bases loaded.
Steve Delabar worked a perfect ninth and then the Mariners finally did something with all the time their bullpen had bought.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.