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Morales treads lightly in walk-off for Mariners

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Raul Ibanez needed only two at-bats to continue his barrage of home runs on Sunday, but his Seattle Mariners teammate Kendrys Morales needed only one pitch to provide the day's heroic moment.

Morales hit a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw to give the Mariners a walk-off victory in the 10th inning, 6-3, over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Morales blast off A's closer Grant Balfour provided his first walk-off game-winner since Morales broke his ankle celebrating a 10th-inning grand slam in Sept. 2010, while playing for the Angels.

"That was a learning experience for me," Morales said through a translator Sunday, more than 2 1/2 years he was injured celebrating with his Angels' teammates at home plate. "I can't do that anymore. I've got to celebrate this win."

Brandon Moss of Oakland hit a clutch home run of his own, tying the score, 3-3, with a solo shot in the eight, helping to take some of the attention away from Ibanez's two-home run game.

One day after hitting a dramatic, three-run home run to tie the score in the seventh inning, Ibanez went deep again with a two-run shot in the first inning Sunday.

Ibanez added a solo home run, his third home run in a span of four at-bats, in the fourth inning to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. He has an AL-best eight home runs in June has his 16 this season lead the Mariners.

"I'm just trying to hit the ball on the barrel, and it's working out," Ibanez said. "I'm not trying to think about it too much."

Balfour (0-1) suffered his first loss of the season after coming into the game to start the inning in a non-save situation.

"With the day off (Monday), I was going to use him for two innings," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of bringing his closer into a tie game. "We had a couple of guys who weren't available, and he's our best pitcher.

"Not the situation he's used to ... (but) I decided we were going to go with our best guy going into the day off."

Balfour got Jason Bay to ground out to start the 10th inning, then struck out rookie catcher Mike Zunino on a pitch that was well outside. The third-strike pitch ended up getting past catcher John Jaso, whose throw was wide of first base and allowed Zunino to reach first.

Michael Saunders followed that with a one-out single before Morales came on to pinch hit for Brendan Ryan with no one out. Morales got a low fastball on the first pitch from Balfour and hit it over the right-field fence.

Oliver Perez (2-1) threw two scoreless innings to earn the win.

Mariners starter Jeremy Bonderman was cruising through his fourth consecutive solid start before the A's finally got to him for three hits and two runs in the sixth.

A bases-loaded wild pitch and Josh Donaldson's RBI groundout pulled the A's to within 3-2, chasing Bonderman from the game.

Bonderman went 5 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs.

"I did all right," the 30-year-old Bonderman said after his fifth start since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma last month. "I just didn't throw the breaking ball very well. ... I basically went with the fastball."

Moss tied the game with a two-out solo home run off reliever Danny Farquhar in the eighth.

Morales, who was supposed to be getting the day off to rest his ailing back, hit the Mariners' first walk-off home run since Sept. 14, 2011, when Luis Rodriguez had the game-winner.

"They're a first-place club," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of the A's. "Anytime you beat a first-place club, you should take some confidence from that."

Oakland is 6-3 in extra-inning games this season, while Seattle improved to 4-6.

The A's (44-34) have lost two series to Seattle in a span of nine days. They also went 2-5 on the trip heading into Monday's off day.

"Wasn't a very good one for us," Melvin said of the trip. "We didn't expect to go 2-5, but not much we can do about it now. Just take the day off, recharge and come back out on Tuesday and play our best baseball."

NOTES: Raul Ibanez's first-inning home run gave him home runs in back-to-back games for the fifth time this season. Sunday was Ibanez's second multi-homer game of the season and moved him into sixth place on the Mariners' list of career home runs (144). ... Ibanez, 41, is the oldest player to record a multi-homer game since 2007, when Barry Bonds and Moises Alou each accomplished the feat at 41. ... A's C Derek Norris was behind the plate for the third straight game Sunday, marking only the second time this month that Norris has started three consecutive games. His platoon partner, John Jaso, is limited by an abrasion on his non-throwing hand, but he replaced Norris in the sixth inning Sunday. ... CF Coco Crisp was the only player in Oakland's lineup Sunday who previously had a hit against Jeremy Bonderman at any point in his career. Crisp ended the game 0-for-5. ... Mariners CF Franklin Gutierrez, who came off the 60-day disabled list Saturday, had to come out of Sunday's game after six innings because of tightness in his hamstring. Gutierrez has been struggling with hamstring problems since April. "It's not what we wanted, that's for sure," manager Eric Wedge said, adding that Gutierrez will be re-evaluated in the next day or two. Jason Bay, who was also fighting hamstring problems and hadn't played in six games, replaced Gutierrez on Sunday.
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