Home runs by Jesus Montero and Casper Wells off two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in the first inning Saturday put the Seattle Mariners ahead of the San Francisco Giants.
Holding that lead would have been too easy.
The Mariners, who don’t do easy, fell behind by two, rallied behind a two-run single from Brendan Ryan – their .165-hitting shortstop – and beat the Giants, 7-4, to snap a six-game losing streak.
“Before the game, it was like ‘C’mon, we’ve got to do this, turn it up!’ ” catcher Montero said. “We did the job together.”
The Mariners put together a little-ball clinic in their winning rally, which included heads-up baserunning by Michael Saunders, a pinch-hit RBI single from Franklin Gutierrez and – ouch! – a double-play ground ball from a slumping Ichiro Suzuki.
Still, with a crowd of 30,589 at Safeco Field, Seattle played it’s grittiest game since no-hitting the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the home stand.
Since then, the Mariners had lost leads, lost games and lost fans with poor play that dropped their home record to 10-19.
Well, make that 11-19 now – and Felix Hernandez is pitching this afternoon.
“Hopefully, this win will turn us around and get us going again,” Ryan said.
No sooner had that crowd of fans settled into their seats than Wells hit his second home run of the season off Lincecum, and one out later catcher Montero hit one well into the second deck in left.
Neither man asked to have the fences moved in.
“I had good timing tonight, my swing was good and he left a change-up over the plate,” Montero said. “I hit it pretty good.”
Once Seattle fell behind, 4-2, the Mariners got a Dustin Ackley single and a walk to John Jaso, had Ryan bunt both runners along and scored on an Ichiro infield single and wild pitch.
That was the prelude to the sixth-inning game-winning rally.
Montero led off with a single, one of his three hits, and Saunders singled him to second base. With one out, Ackley beat out an infield single in large part because Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford tried to tag Saunders – missed him – and threw late to first.
“Michael is a complete player, a smart player and heady baserunner,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s gone from being a prospect to a guy who’s performing and producing.”
With the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Gutierrez grounded to third, but when Joaquin Arias initially tried to tag Saunders – who avoided that tag, too – his throw to first was late.
Gutierrez was credited with an RBI single and the Mariners had a 5-4 lead.
That brought the inning to No. 9 hitter Ryan, whose offense this season has been nearly as bad as his defense has been good. His two-run single to center field brought home two runs, his 13th and 14th RBI of the season, and Seattle led, 7-4.
“I’m the greediest guy in the show right now,” Ryan said. “I’ll take anything. I’m always afraid I’m going to come in here one day and see Jason Vargas batting ninth.
“They had no where to put me with the bases loaded, and when I got the pitch I wanted, I didn’t foul it back. I was able to find a hole.”
In relief of starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, the Seattle bullpen made that lead stand up.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen gave the Giants nothing over the final four innings, so Iwakuma got the win and Wilhelmsen the save, his fourth.
For Iwakuma, it was his first major league victory – which earned him a beer shower from teammates.
“This is pitching at a different level,” Iwakuma said. “The only thing better would be to win as a starting pitcher.”
Wilhelmsen, given the chance to get the final outs that would end the losing streak, was asked if he felt any more pressure to do so.
“No, I’m pretty much a creature of habit. I just wanted three outs and focused on that,” he said. “You have to win today, you can’t go back and change the last six games. It’s a matter of getting this one, and my job is the same every time.”
Wilhelmsen made it look easy. It wasn’t. Not for Seattle. Not even with 12 hits – 10 of them singles.
“It’s never easy,” Wilhelmsen email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue