SEATTLE (AP) -- Jose Lopez's growth was defined in one at-bat
Monday night as he continued to shed his past temptations.
The Seattle second baseman is no longer just a pull hitter.
Instead, he's quickly becoming the Mariners' best clutch hitter.
Lopez had two hits and drove in three runs, rallying the
Mariners to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before the
smallest crowd in Safeco Field history.
Lopez, hitting .429 with runners in scoring position, pulled
Seattle even at 3-3 in the seventh with a two-run single to center.
He also singled home Ichiro Suzuki with Seattle's first run in the
"I would have tried to hit a home run last year," Lopez said
of the seventh-inning single off Tampa Bay reliever Chad Orvella.
"This year my job batting second is to hit the ball the other
Lopez has settled in nicely batting behind Suzuki. Hitting there
has brought a change in attitude and approach for the 22-year-old,
who leads Seattle with 25 RBI.
"You've got to move Ichiro to the next base," Lopez said.
Gil Meche (2-2) pitched seven innings, his longest outing of the
season, for the win. Meche struggled early, throwing 51 pitches in
the first two innings, but scattered six hits and struck out six.
Meche battled mechanics problems early, feeling like he was
opening too quickly in his delivery. Once an adjustment was made,
Meche was solid, not allowing a baserunner after Carl Crawford led
off the fifth with a double.
"It was just a matter of being consistent every single inning I
went out there," Meche said. "I had a couple of shaky ones, but
told myself to bear down and at least try and stay out here for the
sixth or seventh inning."
Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum pitched into the seventh as well,
but was left out of the decision after the Devil Rays' bullpen
failed to hold the lead.
Fossum gave up singles to Kenji Johjima and Willie Bloomquist to
start the inning. Orvella (1-4) entered and got Yuniesky Betancourt
to pop up an attempted sacrifice bunt. Suzuki walked to load the
bases and Lopez improved to 15-for-35 with runners in scoring
position with the game-tying single to center.
After a walk to Raul Ibanez to reload the bases, Richie Sexson
hit a towering pop up down the right field line. Russell Branyan
made a sliding catch in foul territory, but the ball was deep
enough for Suzuki to tag up and score from third.
It was Sexson's first RBI since May 1.
"I was trying to be aggressive and fell behind some hitters,"
Orvella said. "I tried to come back with some off-speed stuff and
it wasn't working."
"We were smart at the plate and took what the pitcher gave
us," said Seattle manager Mike Hargrove, who held a meeting with
his hitters before Monday's game. "A lot of the things we talked
about in the meeting today the guys put into practice."
The Mariners won for the second time in their last seven games
on a chilly evening, and in front of just 16,102 fans. The previous
low was 17,613 on April 19, against Texas.
Jonny Gomes hit his 12th homer of the season for Tampa Bay,
which hasn't won consecutive games since sweeping a three-game
series from Kansas City April 14-16.
Gomes moved into second in the American League in homers, one
behind Chicago's Jim Thome, when he hit a fastball from Meche 381
feet into the right field stands in the third to give Tampa Bay a
Aubrey Huff had an RBI single in the first and Branyan had an
RBI double in the fourth for Tampa Bay, which took two of three
over the weekend in Oakland.
Crawford and Suzuki both entered the game tied for the AL
lead with 10 stolen bases. Both stole one base, but Crawford was
caught stealing for just the second time in the fifth. ... Fossum
took the AL lead in hit batsmen with seven when he plunked Carl
Everett in the sixth. ... Harville made his first appearance of the
season in the eighth. He was called up from Triple-A Durham on