DETROIT -- When you've already had four games snowed out, and two others rained out, a 96-minute rain delay is no big deal. And so, after sitting through yet another wet visit from Mother Nature, the Mariners used a trio of three-run innings and a first-of-its-kind effort from right-hander Cha Seung Baek on Wednesday night to climb back over the break-even mark and remain near the top, in the tight American League West, with a 9-2 victory over the Tigers in front of 27,377 at Comerica Park. Right fielder Jose Guillen delivered a clutch three-run home run in the fourth inning that turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead and the Mariners tacked on three more runs in the fifth and sixth innings as every starter had at least one hit. Left fielder Raul Ibanez led the way with a 3-for-4 performance.
It all added up to a special night for Baek. For the first time in 131 professional regular season starts, he threw the first and last pitches in the same game. "He worked ahead in the count and made some great off-speed pitches," Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. "He kept them off-balance all night. They came out very aggressive, but he didn't panic, got into a groove to the point where he was dominating." That was from the second inning through the seventh when only two Tigers reached base and one of them was erased during a double play. During one stretch, Baek (1-0) retired 16 of the 17 batters he faced. It was especially impressive because the Tigers have been one of the hottest teams in the Majors, winning eight straight heading into the middle game of a three-game series. "I think against any sort of lineup you can characterize that as a special performance," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Cha Seung was awfully good tonight after he got past the first couple of innings." Baek twiddled his thumbs in the visiting clubhouse for more than an hour waiting for a chance to redeem himself for the rocky outing he had against the Yankees in his first start on this road trip. The rain finally stopped, the game began and the first batter Baek faced presented the Mariners' young right-hander with an instant deficit. Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson drove a 1-and-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers for his sixth home run of the season and the third one Baek has surrendered since his promotion from Triple-A Tacoma earlier this month. It was the 10th extra-base hit in the series by the Tigers and left fielder Raul Ibanez kept it from becoming 11 moments later. He raced into left-center to catch a 400-plus foot poke by Placido Polanco for the first out of the inning. Baek retired the next two batters on groundouts and the inning ended a lot quicker than the first one he had in New York, where the Yankees scored five runs right off the bat en route to a fourth-inning knockout. A more composed Baek showed up for work on Wednesday. His primary obstacle in the first three innings was the leadoff hitter. Besides Granderson's nice-to-meet-you home run, Baek surrendered a leadoff triple to former Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen and an inning-opening single to Brandon Inge in the third. Guillen scored, but Inge didn't. "I told him before the game to be patient because he would have a lot of run support," catcher Kenji Johjima said. "I knew he would be fine if he just gave up one run in an inning." It took awhile for that run support Johjima was talking about to show up. The Mariners' offense produced one baserunner in the first three innings -- Yuniesky Betancourt's double in the third -- but the bats came to life in the fourth off left-hander Nate Robertson. The inning started with Jose Vidro grounding out to third base. But Ibanez and Richie Sexson hit back-to-back singles and Guillen reached the right-field bleachers for his fourth home run of the season. That gave Seattle a 3-2 lead and the inning ended with the Mariners scoring a run that didn't count. After Johjima reached on a two-out single and moved to second on shortstop Guillen's throwing error, Jose Lopez singled to left field and Johjima was waved home. He beat the throw home and touched the plate before being tagged by catcher Ivan Rodriguez. However, plate umpire Dan Iassogna, standing behind Rodriguez, apparently didn't see the play as clearly as he could have and called Johjima out. Replays confirmed what Johjima thought -- that he was safe. Undaunted, the Mariners rallied for three more runs in the fifth and KO'd Robertson in the process. Ibanez, Sexson and Adrian Beltre all had run-scoring doubles in the inning. The only drama after the sixth inning was whether Baek would go the distance. With the help of quality pitches, and two energy bars that he consumed, he was up to the task and breezed to the complete-game victory. "Guillen's home run was huge, but we had a lot of clutch two-out base hits," Hargrove said. "And we made a lot of good defensive plays." It was a quality game all around, especially for Baek, who said his last (and only) complete game was with Class-A Wisconsin during the playoffs in 2000. "The last thing I want to do is walk onto the field and take the ball from the pitcher," Hargrove said. "They will dictate if I have to, but I think every pitcher we have steps on the mound, he wants to stay out there for the duration, and you need that. "A lot of things have to come together for that to happen, and they did tonight."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.