Devil Rays 6, Mariners 5

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SEATTLE (AP)—Victor Zambrano has learned how to throw strikes. And Lou Piniella, of course, knows how to work a bullpen.

Zambrano pitched into the ninth inning and the Devil Rays hit four home runs to beat Seattle 6-5 on Saturday night, giving Piniella his first win over the Mariners since changing jobs after last season.

He insisted there was no special significance.

“We’ve got 32 wins this year,” Piniella said. “They all feel good, believe me, whether it’s against Seattle or whomever.”

Javier Valetin, Travis Lee, Damian Rolls and Antonio Perez each homered for the Devil Rays. Zambrano (6-4) was strong through eight innings, striking out seven, walking one and facing only five batters over the minimum.

Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez hit consecutive homers to start the ninth, ending the right-hander’s bid for the first complete game of his career.

“I felt very good until the last three pitches I threw in the ninth,” Zambrano said. “It would have been a big thing to close the game like that.”

Al Levine and Brandon Backe each got an out before Lance Carter finished for his 15th save in 21 opportunities.

For a while, the Tampa Bay bullpen was a frenzy of activity. Piniella had several pitchers warming up as he considered matchups.

“There was a lot of motion out there,” Carter said. “I couldn’t figure out who was going in. When they told me to go in, I went in.”

“We just wanted certain matchups, nothing more and nothing less,” Piniella said.

Zambrano opened the season as Tampa Bay’s No. 2 starter but was sent to the minors May 9 after going 1-2 with a 6.29 ERA in five starts and 10 appearances. Since his return, he is 5-2 with a 2.58 ERA, winning four of his last six starts.

“His bugaboo earlier in the year was the base on balls,” Piniella said. “It wasn’t that they were hitting him. He was getting himself in trouble.”

Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead in the second, starting with Rolls’ leadoff homer to left off Gil Meche (10-5). Marlon Anderson followed with a single to center, zipping it past Meche, and Valentin hit a two-run shot to right.

“He threw way too many fastballs to a fastball-hitting team,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s not mixing up his pitches to a point where he’s not predictable. He had a good first half for us. We’ll get it straightened out.”

Meche allowed 10 hits and five runs, striking out four with no walks in five innings.

“They’re the most aggressive team I’ve faced all year,” Meche said. “They took a swing at pretty much every pitch I threw.”

After the Mariners tied it 3-all in the third, Perez put the Devil Rays back ahead 4-3 in the fourth with his first major league home run, driving an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left.

Lee hit a solo homer to center in the eighth off reliever Julio Mateo, extending the lead to 6-3. He also had two singles.

“The ball I hit out probably wouldn’t have made it to the track with the roof open,” Lee said. “That was probably more home runs than we’ve had in the past two weeks combined. It was exciting to show we can hit the long ball.”

Seattle’s offense got a spark from rookie Willie Bloomquist, who helped the Mariners tie it at 3 with his RBI triple and a two-run homer by Carlos Guillen.

Randy Winn hit a one-out single to left, then scored when Bloomquist blooped a shot into right. Tampa Bay’s Aubrey Huff dived but couldn’t make the catch, and the ball rolled into the corner as Bloomquist sprinted around the bases.

“I tried hard to play hard. I always do,” Bloomquist said.

Tampa Bay added another run in the fifth. Rocco Baldelli doubled to the left corner, went to third on a one-out bloop single by Travis Lee and scored to make it 5-3 when Al Martin grounded out to second but before Lee was caught in a rundown.

“Travis made a real nice base-running play,” Piniella said. “He got hungup when Martin bounced out and allowed enough time for Baldelli to score.”

Notes

Seattle RF Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4, ending his 10-game hitting streak. … Like a night earlier, Piniella got a rousing cheer when the lineups were introduced. … The roof was closed after a steady rain began 30 minutes before the first pitch. The rain stopped, though, and the weather changed to mostly clear and 72 degrees by gametime. … The crowd of 45,655 was the 12th sellout this season. … Zambrano came in leading the AL with 57 walks and ninewild pitches.

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