Johjima, Sexson supply power

Johjima, Sexson supply power

SEATTLE -- The Mariners came into the 2006 season with a good idea of what their blueprint for a big-time turnaround would be, and it wasn't anything novel in the annals of baseball.

It involved aggressive baserunning, timely hits, a home run sprinkled in here and there, and good starting pitching.

On Tuesday night, they got a little bit of everything they were looking for, weathered a few breakdowns along the way, and pulled away to their first victory of the season, a hard-fought 10-8 tally over the Angels before 20,051 in Safeco Field.

"Hopefully this year, we won't be that all-or-nothing team," said Richie Sexson, who had three hits and five RBIs and put the game away with a three-run home run in the eighth inning.

"We can do the little things, too."

Kenji Johjima, the rookie catcher from Japan, started with a big thing in the second inning, a solo homer off Angels starter John Lackey. But after Johjima's second long ball in as many nights, the little things really did become the key.

Jeremy Reed singled and Yuniesky Betancourt followed by dumping a single to shallow right field. Reed made a baserunning gaffe by turning too aggressively at second and found himself in no-man's land with right field arm extraordinaire Vladimir Guerrero ready to nail him at third.

Reed hesitated before deciding to plow ahead and made it safely when Guerrero threw wide of the bag for an error, the first of four by the normally sure-handed Angels.

That type of mojo continued in the frame when Ichiro Suzuki was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Jose Lopez singled to left to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. Two batters later, Sexson drilled another single and the Safeco crowd was reveling in a 5-0 advantage.

"We're getting into good counts, we're using the whole field and everyone throughout the lineup is doing that," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We're running the bases aggressively."

Hargrove expanded on the latter part of that comment by referencing Reed's almost faux pas.

"Your stomach turns and flip-flops some, but it worked and led to some runs," Hargrove said. "I've said it before. We're going to run into outs, and some of them are going to look really ugly.

"But for every ugly one, we'll have five good ones, and I'll take that ratio."

The Mariners built a 6-0 lead by scraping together another run in the fifth, taking advantage of yet another Angels error. The team made four in the game, the first time they've done that since September 2000.

Part of the reason for the big lead was starter Joel Pineiro, who sparkled through the first six innings, giving up only a single and a double along the way.

Pineiro's departure in the seventh was brought on by a difficult three-batter sequence in which Orlando Cabrera doubled, Guerrero singled and Garret Anderson hit a laser of a three-run homer into the right-field seats.

That cut the Mariners' lead to 6-3, but otherwise, it was a solid, healthy return for a pitcher who struggled with shoulder injuries for much of 2005.

"His velocity was good from the first pitch on," Hargrove said. "Joel threw the ball extremely well."

Still, with all the good vibes, some of the team's shortcomings crept up Tuesday night.

The Mariners couldn't take advantage of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fourth, the second night in a row they failed to capitalize with the bases full and less than two out.

And the Mariners' bullpen cracked the door open for the Angels, who are as good as anyone in the game at taking advantage of such opportunities.

Reliever J.J. Putz, called in to preserve the three-run lead in the eighth, laid a fastball right down the middle to Juan Rivera, who hammered it over the wall in left-center, turning what looked like an easy win into a 6-5 nail-biter.

Fortunately for the Mariners, order was restored in the bottom of the inning when Sexson capped a huge night by bashing an Esteban Yan pitch way over the left-center-field wall to give the Mariners a 9-5 lead, and Johjima added an RBI single to give Seattle double-digit runs.

That allowed the team to absorb the adventurous ninth experienced by closer Eddie Guardado, who was called in to get some work in and got a tad more than he bargained for, giving up three runs, including a pinch-hit solo homer by Tim Salmon.

"You know what? That was the longest inning I've had in a long time," Guardado said. "It seemed like 100 pitches. I'm glad it's early and got it out of the way. Don't want many of those, man."

But the Mariners will take games like these if they continue to rack up 10 runs, 13 hits, two homers and plenty of pressure on the opposing defense.

"I don't think we have any real big holes in our lineup," hitting coach Jeff Pentland said after watching every hitter in the order get at least one hit.

"Pitchers have to go through all nine guys."

Doug Miller is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.