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Sweeney, Mariners wield big sticks for Lee

Sweeney, Mariners wield big sticks for Lee

SEATTLE -- Cliff Lee wasn't perfect, and Mike Sweeney made sure he didn't have to be.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

Seattle's ace had his worst outing since 2007, but the Mariners tallied season highs in runs and hits to notch a 15-8 win against the Padres in front of 24,139 at Safeco Field on Friday night.

The Mariners kept the momentum from Ken Griffey Jr.'s walk-off single rolling a day later, as they exploded for seven runs in the second inning and never looked back. Sweeney led the hit parade with a 4-for-5 night that included two home runs -- the most by a Mariner this season -- and six RBIs, one shy of his career high set in 2004.

He said Griffey's hit took the pressure off a team that scored a total of 12 runs during an eight-game losing streak earlier this month and 14 in a more recent five-game skid.

"I think we're still feeling the positive energy," Sweeney said. "I was telling someone earlier that I feel like after the win yesterday we can breathe. There isn't this losing streak looming over us, and I feel like after Junior came up with that big hit it brought us together and kind of softened the mood and brought some fresh air into the clubhouse. I think today was a continuation of that."

Catcher Josh Bard and left fielder Milton Bradley followed Sweeney's lead. Bard went 2-for-3 with a double and a homer to tie a career high with three runs, while Bradley had a season-high three hits and scored twice.

In his third game back from a hiatus for personal reasons, Bradley started the second-inning rally with a single, and two walks and two singles later, Sweeney slammed a three-run shot off the out-of-town scoreboard above the Padres' bullpen to cap the seven-run frame.

That more than compensated for Lee's early struggles. He was tagged for two runs on four hits in the first inning, an early hole that seemed to spell doom a struggling offense. But Seattle responded with more runs in the second than it had in 38 of its prior 41 games.

Lee gave up two more runs on two doubles and an error in the third, and Bard answered with a solo homer later in the frame. That was the end for San Diego starter Wade LeBlanc, who was hammered for eight runs after allowing a total of six in his previous six starts. In his last appearance at Safeco Field, he surrendered four runs in 1 1/3 innings on June 25, 2009, and was optioned to Triple-A Portland the next day.

Seattle tacked on five more in the fourth behind two singles, three doubles and a two-run shot by Sweeney. Facing an 0-2 count, he golfed a breaking ball into the Padres' bullpen behind the left-field wall.

That gave Lee a 13-4 lead, and while he was struggling, he soldiered on to spare Seattle's depleted bullpen. He gave up leadoff doubles in the fourth and fifth but got out of both innings unscathed. He was finally chased in the seventh after an RBI double by Nick Hundley made it 15-6.

"When you looked at this matchup, it looked like a low-scoring game," Padres second baseman David Eckstein said. "That he was still able to get into the seventh inning and save their bullpen is a testament to him."

Lee allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings, his worst outing since July 26, 2007, with the Indians, when he gave up eight runs in four innings to the Red Sox. Entering Friday's game, Lee had allowed eight total runs and received nine of support through four starts. He said the difference Friday was that his cutter -- his go-to pitch -- and breaking ball didn't have their usual bite.

But Lee's struggles will be easy to forget after the offensive fireworks. The Mariners scored their most runs since May 4, 2007, against the Yankees, and manager Don Wakamatsu saw the kind of fight he's been looking for all year at the plate.

"You talk about battling at-bats, and we had six two-strike hits [in the fourth inning]," Wakamatsu said. "To be able to not give in, I think that's left over from last night."

Sweeney saw that grit and determination in the second, when Seattle buried its early deficit.

"The Mariners of two weeks ago would have said, 'Well, we're only scoring one run a game so this is going to be a long night.' But we came out and put it to them."

Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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