Mariners use another late-inning rally to win third straight, 2-1 over Tampa Bay

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SEATTLE (AP)—John McLaren kept looking at the scoreboard and seeing the deficit being erased. J.J. Putz watched the final few outs from the clubhouse.

The Mariners were well aware of what the New York Yankees did on Friday night. That made another ninth inning rally by Seattle even more important.

Ichiro Suzuki started a string of three straight hits to begin the bottom of the ninth, and then scored on Jose Guillen’s sacrifice fly as Seattle beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2-1.

It was the third straight win for the Mariners, all coming in their final plate appearance. For much of the night, it appeared Seattle would make up a game on the Yankees in the wild-card race but the Mariners remained 5 1/2 back after New York overcame a five-run deficit to win 8-7 in Boston.

“Needless to say, that was a must win game with the Yankees coming back like that,” McLaren said.

Seattle’s three-game streak is the longest since a five-game run from Aug. 17-21. It followed a 2-15 skid that dropped them out of the wild-card lead.

“There’s not one thing you can point at and say this is why we are winning now and this is why we weren’t winning before,” Putz said. “It’s just part of the game.”

Suzuki led off the ninth by lining reliever Gary Glover’s first pitch into center field for a single. Adrian Beltre worked the count full on Glover (5-5) and chopped a single to right field as Suzuki easily cruised into third.

Raul Ibanez reached on an infield single, but Suzuki stayed at third, and Guillen flied to deep right. Delmon Young’s throw to the plate was slightly up the third-base line, and Suzuki scored standing up.

“It’s not sitting well with me or any of the other people in this clubhouse,” Glover said, as Tampa Bay lost its fourth straight, all being charged to the bullpen. “I’ve never had to walk off the field like that before, and I never want to have to do it again either.”

Putz, Seattle’s All-Star closer, pitched a perfect ninth inning for his second win in three games. Putz (4-1) picked up his 38th save a night earlier.

Seattle starter Felix Hernandez was one strike from getting out of the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead in one of his more impressive performances.

But on a 1-2 count to No. 9 hitter Jorge Velandia, Hernandez left a pitch up in the strike zone and Velandia lined a drive to center that got over Suzuki, who was playing very shallow. Jonny Gomes, who led off the eighth with a single, easily jogged home to pull the Devil Rays even.

Hernandez angrily slapped his glove as a sprinting Suzuki failed to track down the liner. Hernandez was replaced by George Sherrill, who struck out Akinori Iwamura to end the inning.

“The slider I threw … was hanging and he hit the ball and they had moved the outfield in,” Hernandez said. “But we win the game and that’s the most important thing.”

Hernandez, who has won six of his last seven decisions, hit 98 mph on the stadium’s radar gun and kept the Devil Rays off-balance with a mix of sliders and curveballs. He allowed six hits and struck out eight, his most since fanning nine on June 21 against Pittsburgh.

Tampa Bay starter James Shields gave up just four hits and struck out five in his fifth straight impressive start. Shields has gone at least seven innings in his last five outings, winning three.

“That was a classic matchup, and they won the bullpen battle,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.

A mental lapse by Shields in the fifth helped Seattle get its first run. Jose Vidro led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall, just beating Young’s throw into second.

Kenji Johjima turned to bunt, dropping the ball down the third-base line. The ball teetered on the foul side of the line, but bounced onto the line as Shields grabbed it. Shields looked in disbelief as plate umpire Derryl Cousins called the ball fair.

Willie Bloomquist then hit a slow chopper to second that the Devil Rays turned for a double play, but Vidro scored without a throw.

Hernandez was helped by three double plays. Josh Wilson led off the third with a single, but was thrown out by Johjima when Velandia struck out on a 3-2 pitch.

Greg Norton led off the fourth with a single, but B.J. Upton struck out on another 3-2 pitch and Norton was cut down by Johjima.

“When you have a double play it’s always great; pitcher’s best friend,” Johjima said through his interpreter.

Notes

Gomes reached second base on a groundout in the eighth, the first Tampa Bay runner to advance that far off Hernandez. … Shields has not lost since Aug. 13 at Boston. … Hernandez has lost just once since July 22.

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