Mariners jump on Jays early for win

Mariners jump on Jays early for win

TORONTO -- You wouldn't have to search long in a Major League clubhouse to find the players who view the All-Star break as a much-needed breather from the 162-game grind.

Just don't swing by Gil Meche's locker if you're looking for any reflective offerings about how wonderful it is for him to get away from the game for four days in July.

"The All-Star break takes you out of your rhythm," Meche said. "It messes everyone up."

Well, apparently not everyone.

Meche extended his career-best winning streak to five games by allowing three runs over six innings as the Mariners defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-3, before a crowd of 23,443 at Rogers Centre.

In continuing his blissful run of strong starts since June 1, Meche (9-4) lowered his ERA to 3.87 and rewarded manager Mike Hargrove for his decision to juggle Seattle's starting rotation by having Meche start the second half.

"I felt that the way I was throwing that I didn't want to take the time off," Meche said of the All-Star break.

Staff ace? Meche certainly has looked the part. He hasn't lost since May 30 in Texas, and is 5-0 with three no-decisions in that stretch. Better still, Meche has allowed three runs or less in seven of those eight starts.

"He threw the ball real well," Hargrove said of Meche, who was coming off an outing on Sunday where he threw a season-high 125 pitches against Detroit. "His curveball and his slider were good pitches and he threw them when he was behind in the count."

Meche -- who walked just one Friday -- hasn't allowed more than two walks in any of his last six starts.

"I'm just trying to go out there and be consistent and keep my walks down," Meche said. "When I keep my walks down, it changes the whole outlook [of the game] and keeps me in the game."

In that start against Detroit, Meche struck out eight without the benefit of his best pitch -- his curveball. On Friday, the curveball was back, though his slider and the command of his fastball were only somewhat reliable.

Meche had five strikeouts through the first three innings as the Blue Jays (49-40) didn't have much to offer at the plate against the hard-throwing right-hander, who began to tire in the sixth inning when he allowed solo home runs to Gregg Zaun and Vernon Wells.

"I kind of hit a wall today," Meche said. "It was one of those days where you don't mind coming out after the sixth inning."

Hargrove likely didn't mind either as he had a fresh bullpen to go to once Meche left the game after throwing 97 pitches.

Meche wasn't the only power pitcher to have success dabbling with some softer stuff on Friday, though. Reliever Rafael Soriano -- who struck out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings to get the lead to closer J.J. Putz -- got several Blue Jays buckling at his slider.

Soriano entered the game in the seventh inning with one out and runners on second and third. He promptly blew a 95 mph fastball past pinch-hitter Bengie Molina and then got Zaun to ground out to second to end the inning.

In the eighth inning, Soriano sandwiched strikeouts of Troy Glaus and Shea Hillenbrand -- both on 81 mph sliders away -- around a double to Lyle Overbay.

Putz then worked a scoreless ninth inning for his 17th save of the season in 19 chances.

The Mariners (44-46) scored all five of their runs in two innings, including three in the first inning off Toronto starting pitcher Casey Janssen (6-8), to give Meche to an early lead.

The first three batters of the inning -- Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez -- all singled off Janssen. Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson then each drove in runs by hitting into fielder's choices. Carl Everett later added an RBI single.

In the sixth inning, Ichiro beat out an infield single with two outs to prolong and inning that saw Seattle add to the lead when Beltre knocked in two runs with a double to the wall in left-center field.

All in all, it was a pretty quiet night, which wasn't a bad thing for 20-year-old rookie center fielder Adam Jones, who made his Major League debut.

Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk and caught all four fly balls -- including the first out in the first inning by Frank Catalanotto.

"I felt very comfortable," Jones said. "I thought I would have a lot of jitters, but I didn't."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.