Orioles 6, Mariners 3
SEATTLE (AP)—It was a fitting celebration for one of baseball’s perfect gentlemen: A champagne toast in the clubhouse for Rafael Palmeiro, not some crazy beer-over-the-head soiree.
Palmeiro became the 26th player to reach 3,000 career hits on Friday night, doubling in a run in the fifth inning before adding a sixth-inning single in Baltimore’s 6-3 win over the Seattle Mariners.
“I was just trying to drive the runner in,” Palmeiro said. “I was trying to do my thing, keep it simple. I did what I had to do, and it was my 3,000th hit. I was numb going around the bases. I don’t remember much.”
Melvin Mora and Sal Fasano each hit solo home runs for the Orioles, who remained one game behind first-place Boston in the AL East. Rodrigo Lopez (8-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings for his second straight victory.
B.J. Ryan pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances, finishing the Mariners for the second straight night.
Palmeiro’s milestone hit came off Seattle starter Joel Pineiro (3-5), who good-naturedly tossed the ball to Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli as the Orioles rushed from their dugout to swarm Palmeiro at second base.
“It was emotional. I wasn’t expecting that,” Palmeiro said. “I thought maybe for a second or two the game would stop and we could keep it moving, but they came out there.”
Palmeiro has 566 home runs over his 20-year career, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Those magnificent numbers are likely to make Palmeiro a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
To mark the occasion, Mazzilli toasted Palmeiro with champagne when the slugger returned to the clubhouse after doing several interviews on the field.
“We just wanted to say how much he means to us, how special the moment was,” teammate Jay Gibbons recalled.
Palmeiro’s double tied him with Roberto Clemente for 25th place on the career hits list. He passed Clemente with a clean single to center off reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa for hit No. 3,001.
Palmeiro finished 2-for-4 and walked in the first, which resulted in boos. He grounded out in the third and led off the ninth by striking out looking against reliever Ron Villone.
Baltimore’s slugger was cheered on each at-bat, and flashbulbs popped on every pitch with the record pending. Teammates mobbed him with hugs after his 3,000th hit and he received a lengthy standing ovation from the Safeco Field crowd.
“I’m very honored by the way the Mariner fans applauded,” Palmeiro said. “I’m very thankful for that. I really appreciated it.”
Palmeiro’s sons were on hand to enjoy the night, too. Ten-year-old Preston Palmeiro documented the event with a video camera and another son, 15-year-old Patrick, was a Baltimore batboy.
Both ran on the field with the team and hugged their father.
“That was the best. For them to be a part of that, to be out there with me, I’ll never forget that. I hope they never forget it, either,” Palmeiro said.
As the Orioles left the field after their celebration, Palmeiro raised his helmet and thanked the fans—drawing another thunderous cheer.
“That was incredible,” Baltimore’s Sammy Sosa said. “Raffy accomplished something great tonight. He went out there and battled for many, many years. Today, he got to a place not many people can—3,000 hits is a lot. I’m very happy for him.”
He went into a four-game series at Seattle two hits short of 3,000. He was 1-for-3 with a walk Thursday, lining a single to right.
Rickey Henderson was the most recent player to reach 3,000 hits, accomplishing the feat Oct. 7, 2001, for San Diego.
Palmeiro’s double was an important hit in the victory as well as being historic, scoring Mora and giving the Orioles a 4-1 lead.
“When I hit it, I knew it was fair the whole way,” he said. “But as I got closer to first base, it was just tailing away. I thought it may go foul. Thank God it didn’t.”
The next batter, Gibbons, doubled to right to score Palmeiro.
Besides moving up on the career hits list, Palmeiro also tied Robin Yount for No. 13 all-time with 583 doubles. His 1,187 extra-base hits rank seventh, moving Palmeiro out of a tie with Frank Robinson and within range of No. 6 Lou Gehrig (1,190).
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “Nothing can overshadow it. I, along with everyone else in baseball, congratulate him on a tremendous achievement.”
Seattle threatened in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with two outs before reliever Jorge Julio got Raul Ibanez to fly to center. Fasano led off the eighth with his second homer in two nights, stretching the lead to 6-3.
Pineiro pitched five innings, allowing five runs and nine hits with four strikeouts and two walks. He had thrown a six-hitter in his last start, a 10-2 win over the Angels on July 7.
Seattle 2B Willie Bloomquist’s hitting streak reached 10 games with a third-inning single to center. … After a drizzly day, the roof was closed for batting practice but reopened about 15 minutes before the first pitch. … Baltimore RHP Jason Grimsley, recalled from a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment Thursday, made his season debut and struck out Seattle SS Mike Morse to end the sixth.