Mariners 7, Rangers 2

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SEATTLE (AP)—Free-swinging Richie Sexson likes the odds when he comes up with the bases loaded.

Sexson set a Mariners record with his fifth grand slam of the season and Cha Seung Baek pitched seven shutout innings to lead the Mariners past the Texas Rangers 7-2 Friday night.

“I’ve always felt good in bases-loaded situations because the pitcher has his back to the wall,” Sexson said. “He can’t walk you.”

Kenji Johjima hit a three-run homer for the last-place Mariners, who won their third straight. They beat their third-place AL West rivals for only the third time in 11 meetings this season and pulled within four games of Texas. Seattle has won 11 of its last 13 games at Safeco Field.

Sexson is third in the AL with 136 strikeouts this season, but he’s been Mr. Clutch with the bases loaded, going 7-for-14 with 29 RBIs and five of his team-leading 29 homers.

An All-Star with Milwaukee in 2002 and 2003, Sexson is one grand slam from tying the major league record set by Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees in his AL MVP year in 1985 and tied by Cleveland’s Travis Hafner this season.

“I’m running out of time,” Sexson said.

Baek (3-0) made his fourth start since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 22 to replace Jamie Moyer in Seattle’s rotation after the lefty was traded. Baek lowered his ERA to 2.22, allowing four hits.

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove isn’t giving Baek a place in the rotation for 2007 yet.

“I think every pitcher is a candidate for us right now,” Hargrove said. “We’ve got a lot of open slots.”

Baek isn’t concerned about that, either.

“I just focus on right now,” he said.

Joel Pineiro pitched two innings for his first career save.

Kevin Millwood (14-10), last season’s AL ERA champion with Cleveland before signing a $60 million, five-year contract with Texas in December, didn’t allow a hit in the first four innings.

Sexson and Ben Broussard singled to start the fifth before Johjima, Seattle’s 30-year-old rookie catcher from Japan, hit his 15th homer into the Texas bullpen in left field to put Millwood behind 3-0.

“He made one of the few mistakes he made tonight,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.

Johjima said he was surprised Hargrove didn’t give him a bunt sign with runners on first and second.

“Then I tried to hit it as hard as I could,” Johjima said through a translator.

Sexson hit his 14th career slam in the eighth off Rick Bauer, Texas’ third pitcher of the inning. Edgar Martinez hit four grand slams for Seattle in 2000. The Mariners have six grand slams in 2006.

Sexson said he doesn’t go to the plate thinking grand slam.

“I’ve always said a single up the middle for two runs is just as good,” he said.

Carlos Lee ruined Seattle’s shutout bid in the ninth with an RBI single. Another run scored on the play when center fielder Ichiro Suzuki committed an error, his first since moving to center from right field 17 games ago.

Millwood, who was 2-0 in three previous starts against Seattle this season, pitched six innings. He allowed three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts.

“That one inning kind of got away from me a little bit,” he said.


The 26-year-old Baek improved to 2-0 against Texas. He also won Sept. 26, 2004, in Arlington. In 15 innings, he’s allowed no runs and seven hits against the Rangers. … Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre was out of the lineup to be with his wife, who gave birth to a baby boy in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The Beltres also have a 2-year-old daughter. The Mariners don’t know when to expect Beltre back in Seattle. … RHP Frank Francisco of the Rangers pitched in his first major league game since Sept. 17, 2004. … The Mariners recalled OF T.J. Bohn, INF Greg Dobbs, LHP Cesar Jimenez, OF Adam Jones and INF Oswaldo Navarro from Triple-A Tacoma, and RHP Travis Chick from Double-A San Antonio. They purchased the contracts of RHP Francisco Cruceta from Tacoma and LHP Ryan Feierabend from San Antonio.

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