Ibanez still surging along with Mariners, as Seattle staves off Chicago 5-4
SEATTLE (AP)—Raul Ibanez confesses to a hidden, Type-A personality. And that has suddenly become A-OK for the Mariners.
“I tend to try to control everything, take everything into my own hands,” he said.
Those hands were golden again on Friday night, turning over for three hits and yet another home run to lead the Mariners to a 5-4 victory over the reeling Chicago White Sox.
Ibanez hit his seventh home run in 10 games—after six in his first 96 games—Jose Vidro also had two RBIs and Miguel Batista took a shutout into the seventh inning. The Mariners won for the fourth time in six games to remain one-half game ahead of the New York Yankees in the wild-card standings.
“I’m not completely ignorant of the importance of these games,” said Ibanez, who has spent most of his 11 seasons playing for non-contenders in Seattle and Kansas City. “Without sounding too corny, I feel blessed.”
Rookie Brandon Morrow, throwing 98 mph fastballs, pitched a scoreless inning before J.J. Putz struck out Scott Podsednik with two on to end the eighth. Putz struck out Alex Cintron with runners on the corners in the ninth for his 35th save in 37 chances.
Chicago lost for a season-high sixth consecutive time and dropped into a last-place tie in the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals.
Jose Contreras, starting for the first time since he was yanked from the rotation after allowing seven runs in 2 2-3 innings against the Yankees July 31, lost his eighth consecutive start. He pitched seven innings and allowed five runs—one after his throwing error in the third on a bunt by Ichiro Suzuki.
Contreras (6-15), who could be auditioning for a trade to a contender, allowed nine hits and struck out five. Ozzie Guillen said he was pleased enough to keep him in the rotation.
“It was the same problem: We wake up a little bit late in the game,” said the usually talkative White Sox manager, who abruptly cut short his postgame comments following two questions by standing up and saying, “That’s it?”
The Mariners also closed to three games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the AL West lead thanks largely to Ibanez’s continued resurrection from a drastic power loss.
One pitch after Jose Guillen’s double off Contreras in the first, Ibanez hit his 13th home run into the third row of right-field bleachers. The sellout crowd put down their Ibanez bobblehead dolls to stand and roar for Seattle’s 2-0 lead.
The man who hit a career-high 33 homers last season had six entering the month. He had gone 116 at-bats over six weeks between home runs, prompting loud whispers that he seemed older than the 35 he turned in June.
“He’s been so good for us here lately,” manager John McLaren said. “He’s one of the better hitters in the league right now.”
Ibanez’s power play has directly coincided with the Mariners promoting power-speed dynamo Adam Jones from Triple-A to contend for a starting outfield spot, including Ibanez’s. But both Ibanez and McLaren said that is pure coincidence.
“You really want to go back there?” McLaren asked. “I’ve seen cases where young guys push veterans, but in this case Raul got well and the timing was just such … Whatever the reason, we’ll take it.”
Ibanez won’t admit it, but his previously achy shoulder is better. So are his sore legs.
Jose Guillen’s legs are fine, too. After consecutive RBI sacrifice flies by Vidro in the third and fifth innings made it 4-0, Guillen scored from second on a ball hit perhaps 65 feet into the infield. Guillen never stopped running on an unusually high chopper off the plate by Adrian Beltre that shortstop Juan Uribe charged but couldn’t glove.
Guillen left the game with dizziness in the eighth, but told McLaren afterward that he was fine.
The White Sox, last in the AL in runs, hits, batting average and on-base percentage, finally scored big in the seventh.
Richar hit his first career home run halfway up the right-field bleachers to cut Seattle’s lead to 5-4.
Batista (13-8) allowed three runs and three hits, struck out five and walked five while batting through a tight biceps after the fourth inning. Since June 1, the former castoff of Pittsburgh, Florida, the Cubs, Montreal, Kansas City, Arizona and Toronto is 8-4 with a 3.13 ERA. He is two wins past his previous career high for a season.
When asked if this was his best season, Batista said, “No, my best season was when I ended up with a World Championship (with Arizona in 2001). If we end up there, then this might be my best season.”
Erstad started at first for Paul Konerko, who will miss the entire weekend series after his grandmother died. He is scheduled to rejoin the team for Monday’s home game against Kansas City.