Ibanez homers twice to lead Seattle to a 9-4 win over Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Raul Ibanez is feeling great at the plate at the perfect time for the Seattle Mariners.

Ibanez hit two of the team’s four home runs, and the Mariners began a challenging stretch with a 9-4 win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

Richie Sexson and Kenji Johjima also went deep for the Mariners, who have won four straight and seven of nine to improve to a season-high 18 games over .500.

Horacio Ramirez (8-4), who may have been pitching to keep his place in the rotation, allowed nine hits and four earned runs in 7 1-3 innings for Seattle, his longest outing of the season.

“The most important thing is winning,” he said. “Every game is so important.”

The Mariners chased Minnesota starter Matt Garza (2-4) in the third inning. He was charged with seven runs and nine hits, recording just seven outs.

Seattle had 15 hits, its fourth straight game with at least 10 hits.

The win began a run of 17 of 20 games on the road for the Mariners, including trips to New York and Detroit. Their lone home series is with the Angels from Aug. 27-29. Seattle entered the night with a half-game lead over New York in the wild-card standings and was two games behind Los Angeles in the AL West.

“It’s a nice way to start,” Ibanez said. “We played well, we swung the bats well and our pitchers did a great job. We’re playing well as a club and that’s the important thing.”

Ibanez went 3-for-5, scored three runs and is hitting .431 (28-for-65) in August. He leads the league with nine home runs this month, all in his last 13 games. He hit six in his first 97 games.

“You always want to not miss your pitch, but it’s a hard game, it’s a hard thing to do,” Ibanez said. “They’ve been good pitches to hit and I’m not missing them. I wasn’t swinging this well or feeling this good earlier.”

Jose Guillen singled with two outs in the first and Ibanez followed with a homer to left-center. Adrian Beltre then singled and Sexson hit a drive to center to make it 4-0.

Seattle has hit two home runs in the first in each of its last two games. Beltre and Guillen did it Sunday against the White Sox.

“You get behind like that, it just makes for a very tough night and not much fun in the dugout,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Ibanez and Johjima connected in the third inning to make it 7-1. Johjima’s two-run drive came one pitch after Garza motioned toward plate umpire Bill Miller after he thought he struck out the Mariners catcher.

“They just sat on that fastball,” Garza said. “They weren’t looking for anything other than that fastball tonight.”

Garza’s ERA jumped from 2.05 to 3.30, and he fell to 0-7 with a 7.02 ERA in nine career starts in the Metrodome. The Twins have scored seven runs in those starts, including four in his four home starts this year.

Minnesota, which dropped 6 1/2 games behind idle Cleveland in the AL Central, couldn’t put much offense together against a pitcher it hit well six days earlier.

Ramirez allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings against the Twins last Tuesday, and had given up 24 earned runs in 14 innings in his last three starts.

Manager John McLaren said Ramirez did a better job of mixing speeds to keep hitters off balance, but Ramirez said that wasn’t the only change.

The left-hander, who entered the game with a 13.50 ERA in six previous road starts, said he made a slight adjustment after his last start, so his windup was not over his head and he could get a more consistent release point.

“It’s a game of adjustments and today I definitely made an adjustment. Hopefully it’s a beginning of a run for me,” Ramirez said.

Other than Mike Redmond’s second-inning RBI double, just two other Minnesota baserunners reached scoring position in the first seven innings, before the Twins got to Ramirez in the eighth.

Joe Mauer singled and advanced to second on Torii Hunter’s fielder’s choice before Justin Morneau, who had three hits, doubled into the right-field corner, ending Ramirez’s night. Sean Green got the last two outs in the eighth.

Minnesota scored more than three runs for the first time in nine August home games.

“We continue to play. We continue to battle. We scored more runs today than we did the whole last series,” Michael Cuddyer said.


Johjima had an RBI double and Jose Lopez singled in a run in the seventh for Seattle. … Ibanez has three multihomer games this year and eight in his career. … Jose Vidro, who entered the game with .533 career batting average against the Twins, was 0-for-3. … Mauer doubled in the fifth to snap an 0-for-17 slump. … The Twins are 2-11 on Mondays.

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