SEATTLE (AP) -- Instead of being methodical and waiting for the perfect pitch in a bases loaded, two-out situation, Jose Lopez was content just settling for something in the strike zone.
The struggling Seattle Mariners are thankful Lopez decided to be impatient.Lopez jumped on the first pitch from San Diego reliever Heath Bell in the bottom of the eighth, lining a two-out, two-run double into the right-field corner, and the Mariners rallied for a 3-2 win over the Padres on Saturday afternoon.
Junior Circuit Rules
The American League won this round of interleague play. The NL gets its chance again on June 13. Here are the stats from this weekend.
Moments after Adrian Beltre struck out, drawing a collective groan from Mariners fans, Lopez changed the tone, giving Seattle consecutive wins for the first time since April 20 and 22."I like it. I like it a lot," Lopez said of the situation. "It's not pressure."Without question, Lopez has been Seattle's best player through a disappointing 18-27 start. He's hitting .307 after Sunday, and was moved into the No. 3 slot in the batting order on Saturday because of his consistency.Lopez made sure to get Seattle's first run home in the first inning, settling for a groundout that scored Ichiro Suzuki from first. When the Mariners finally put together some offense in the eighth, Lopez realized he was going to get an opportunity."He's coming to play and he's having fun," Seattle manager John McLaren said. "He's been our best player here from spring training to today."The rally started thanks to consecutive singles from pinch hitter Jose Vidro and Yuniesky Betancourt. Suzuki walked, but Bell (0-3) seemed to regroup, getting the strikeout of Beltre.Knowing Bell was a hard thrower, Lopez slowed his swing and dropped a line drive just inside the right field line, scoring pinch runner Miguel Cairo and Betancourt with the winning runs.It was the second straight game Seattle got to the Padres bullpen. On Saturday, Beltre hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off reliever Cla Meredith in Seattle's 4-2 win."He just stuck his bat out there," Bell said. "He made a pretty good swing on a pretty good pitch."Reliever Arthur Rhodes (2-0) finished the eighth for Seattle, and J.J. Putz worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save in seven chances.Seattle's rally ruined the feel-good story of San Diego starter Shawn Estes, who made just his second start in more than two years and looked much like he did in his prime. The Mariners could not solve Estes, settling for two hits in 6 1/3 innings.Estes gave up an infield single to Suzuki leading off the bottom of the first, then retired the next 13 batters before Richie Sexson's single with one out in the fifth. Estes slapped his glove after Sexson's single, realizing he'd missed on his location.Estes threw just 89 pitches, leaving after walking Raul Ibanez with one out in the seventh. He struck out two and walked two. Even with more than half of Estes' pitches being balls (45), Seattle managed just four baserunners against the lefty, who relied almost exclusively on his fastball."What is the point of throwing breaking balls if you can just throw fastball?" Estes said. "I keep it as simple as I can."The lack of offense put young right-hander Felix Hernandez in a bind, but he kept Seattle close and made only one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a long two-run homer in the fourth. Seattle's rally kept Hernandez from dropping his fifth straight decision, although it might have turned out to be a victory had he won his argument with Seattle's coaches.Hernandez felt a cramp develop in his right calf in the third inning, but managed to last through the sixth before McLaren finally shut him down. Hernandez allowed seven hits in six innings and struck out five, getting help from a pair of line-out double plays, and is expected to make his next start."I was [mad]," Hernandez said. "But I realize and understand you've got to be healthy."Again, all of San Diego's offense came off Gonzalez's bat and in the fourth inning. On Saturday, it was a two-run opposite field homer off Erik Bedard. A day later, Gonzalez ripped a 421-foot homer into the second deck of the right-field stands. Brian Giles, who went 9-for-12 in the three games, doubled ahead of Gonzalez's 11th homer of the season.Seattle's first run came thanks to Suzuki's feet. After reaching on his infield single, Suzuki stole second to become Seattle's all-time stolen base leader with 291, passing Julio Cruz. On the next pitch, Suzuki stole third, and scored on Lopez's groundout.
Padres C Michael Barrett will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Portland on Monday and later in the week will join Single-A Lake Elsinore. Barrett's been on the DL since April 8 with a sprained ligament in his right elbow. ... It was Seattle's first win this season when scoring fewer than four runs and first win when trailing after seven innings.