ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Russell Branyan didn’t hold anything back in his return to the lineup after missing five games with lower back spasms.
Branyan homered in the second inning, then beat the throw back to the plate from Mike Napoli after Rich Thompson’s wild pitch during a six-run fifth that carried the Seattle Mariners to an 8-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
“That that was the last thing to come—running at full speed,” Branyan said. “I don’t know why. You’d think that swinging the bat puts more stress on your back than running. But I went out early today and ran at probably at 50-60 percent. When I was running the bases, I didn’t even think about and felt fine all night. When I took off for the plate, I didn’t even think about my back.”
Branyan also hit an RBI double in the sixth for Seattle’s final run. He went 2-for-3 with two walks and scored twice.
“I was ready to go yesterday, but Skip just wanted to give me one more day just to be sure,” Branyan said. “I had some jitters tonight. The only thing I was focused on was just making sure I had good rhythm, making sure that my timing was on and that I wasn’t late behind the ball. When I get a little bit late, that’s when I rush myself and I put a little more stress on my back. Right now, I think I’m out of the woods.”
Erik Bedard (2-1) allowed three runs—two earned—and five hits in 6 2-3 innings for Seattle. The left-hander’s ERA after four starts is 2.08.
“We got beat by a good pitcher tonight,” Torii Hunter said. “We’ve been hitting pretty well—until we faced Bedard. His curveball was A-1. He had that curveball really working today.”
Shane Loux (0-2) failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced in the fifth and was pulled after 84 pitches with the Angels trailing 5-0. Adrian Beltre hit a two-run double, Jose Lopez drove in another run with a chopper off the plate that third baseman Chone Figgins had no play on, and Rob Johnson followed with a bloop RBI single.
Thompson came in to face Franklin Gutierrez and bounced a pitch past Napoli, whose return throw to the plate would have been in time to retire the sliding Branyan had Thompson simply turned his head to his right—instead of holding the ball and staring back at Napoli.
“He was telling us his closing speed to home plate tonight was … you can’t measure that on any field. He was talking about that for 5-10 minutes,” teammate Ken Griffey Jr. said with a grin.
Yuniesky Betancourt capped the rally with a sacrifice fly for a 7-0 lead.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to play some decent baseball, and hopefully we’ll continue it,” Griffey said. “We’ve had some great outings by our starting pitchers, so that helps.”
After getting 39 baserunners into scoring position and totaling 24 runs in their three-game series against Detroit, the Angels got only one runner as far as second base against Bedard over the first four innings. But they pushed across three runs in the fifth.
Napoli drove an 0-2 pitch into the top tier of the double-decker bullpen in left field for his third homer, the first off Bedard in four starts this season. Howie Kendrick singled and came all the way home on a single by Robb Quinlan, as the throw to third from left fielder Endy Chavez bounced past Beltre and into the stands.
Loux, making his third start of the campaign, was charged with seven runs, 11 hits and three walks.
RHP Anthony Ortega will make his major league debut Saturday night, becoming the eighth pitcher to start for the Angels already this season—one more than all of last year. Thompson was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room on the roster. … Napoli’s homer was the first allowed by a Mariners pitcher since April 15, when Hunter hit a two-run shot off LHP Jarrod Washburn. Seattle’s streak of seven consecutive games without a home run allowed was two shy of the franchise record, set during the strike season of 1981. … The Mariners have won the opener in each of their first six series.