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Originally published June 22, 2012 at 10:24 PM | Page modified June 23, 2012 at 7:10 PM

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Mariners sunk by unlikely hero in loss to Padres

Pitcher Clayton Richard drives in three runs for victorious San Diego.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Mariners @ Padres, 7:05 p.m., ROOT Sports

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SAN DIEGO — The Mariners' offensive road show powered forward on Friday at cavernous Petco Park, as the team banged two more home runs away from Safeco Field.

But the Padres won this battle of the bats, led by the unlikeliest of sluggers — pitcher Clayton Richard, normally a semi-automatic out but a force against Kevin Millwood.

In leading San Diego to the 9-5 victory, Clayton drove in three runs with a double and a single as the Padres — bringing in the worst record in baseball — won their fourth straight over Seattle this season.

Richard entered the game as a career .109 hitter, but was doing even worse this year: .040 (1 for 25, with 17 strikeouts).

"That's no fun," Millwood said of getting touched up by his opposite number. "But you tip your hat. He did what he needed to do."

And on this road trip, in which the Mariners have now lost three of four, their starting pitchers haven't done what they've needed to do. In 19-1/3 innings, they have given up 33 hits and 29 runs (24 earned), for an 11.17 earned-run average.

"Our starting pitching has been struggling a little bit on the road," manager Eric Wedge said. "It makes it tough. You end having to get to your bullpen earlier. We were hoping Kevin could get through it. It's tough to go get somebody in the fourth inning."

And while the Mariners were continuing their seasonlong pattern of raking on the road after hibernating at home, their defense also struggled. Kyle Seager committed two errors, leading to three unearned runs. This game was not one to use as a Little League clinic — the Padres had two errors of their own, leading to two unearned runs.

But it was Millwood's inability to get out Richard that did him in, after the Mariners had staked him to a 4-0 lead. That came largely on the strength of a two-run homer by Franklin Gutierrez in the first inning, and a solo shot by Miguel Olivo in the second.

That gave the Mariners 50 homers on the road this season, more than any other team in the majors. Granted, they've played five more road games than any other team, but it's still a remarkable total for a team that had just 52 home runs on the road last year in 78 games (and has hit just 17 in 31 games at home, ranking 27th in the majors).

The Padres begin chipping away at Millwood with two unearned runs in the third. They did their real damage in the fourth, however, batting around to score five runs and take the lead to stay. Millwood hit Yonder Alonso to start things off, and Logan Forsythe singled. Everth Cabrera doubled in a run, but after a strikeout, Richard was the unexpected catalyst. He laced a double into right to score two, then came around to score himself on a Will Venable single.

In the fifth, with Forsythe on second with two outs after a double, the Mariners elected to walk Nick Hundley intentionally to get to Richard. He lined a single to left-center to bring in another run.

"It's not something that happens very often," Wedge said. "He got a couple of knocks that hurt us tonight. Obviously, those are the guys — the pitchers — that you want up in that situation, but he really hurt us tonight."

Overall, Millwood said, "The ball was up. The breaking balls weren't good. I just didn't pitch good, bottom line."

The Mariners had gotten one run back in the fifth on a throwing error by Chase Headley to bring in Gutierrez, who had reached on the third of his four hits of the game. Gutierrez now has four homers at Petco in just 10 games. The ballpark ranks 29th in the majors in terms of home-run rate — ahead of only Safeco Field.

The Mariners had nine hits in the game — three by leadoff hitter Ichiro, and four by No. 2 hitter Gutierrez, who raised his average from .190 to .308.

"I lost a lot of playing time, and I told you before it's going to take awhile to get back in time," Gutierrez said. "Right now, I'm feeling I'm seeing the ball a little better. I'm trying to put a good swing, trying to be calm at the plate. It seems like it's working right now."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry

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