Ichiro Suzuki made sure Washburn would take the hill in the second inning with a lead, as the Mariners right fielder laced his 29th career leadoff home run into the right-field seats on a 1-1 pitch off Padres starter Wade LeBlanc. It was the first of four hits on the day for Suzuki, who finished a triple shy of the cycle and scored two runs.
The Mariners (37-35) weren't done in the opening frame. Two hits and an intentional walk later, the bases were loaded for catcher Rob Johnson, who ripped a two-out double into the left-center-field gap to clear the bases and give Seattle a four-run lead it never relinquished.
"I was just sitting in there talking to Rob, I told him, 'As soon as [you] got that hit, game over,'" Washburn said. "I just had to go out and make pitches, and for the most part, I did that."
The win snapped a 12-start winless streak for Washburn (4-5, 3.22 ERA), who pitched good enough to win in almost all of those. This time, good enough to win was, well, good enough for Washburn to actually get credit for one. He allowed just two runs -- both coming on a homer by Chase Headley in the sixth inning -- on six hits over six innings and worked out of jams with runners in scoring position on three separate occasions.
"The one thing about him is he's going to give you an honest day's work every time he goes out there," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "And he did it again today. It's nice to give him some run support, finally."
And it's nice for Washburn, especially, that the bulk of that support came from Johnson. Washburn almost always praises Johnson for calling a good game behind the dish, but the Seattle catcher had been struggling in the batter's box recently. His first-inning double made this game easier on everyone in a Mariners uniform.
"It's awesome, but at the same time, he could go 0-for-the-season and he's that good of a catcher where the pitching staff doesn't care," Washburn said. "But I know we feel great for him because I know he feels bad about how his season's going offensively, and to get a big hit like that is huge."
Also huge was Mike Sweeney, whose 4-for-4 performance -- he also drew an intentional walk -- had a lot to do with the lopsided final. Sweeney scored on Johnson's double after a double of his own, and drove in two runs in the bottom of the eighth with a bases-loaded single that blew the game open.
Adrian Beltre again played through bone spurs to finish 3-for-5. Wladimir Balentien launched a 428-foot jack in the sixth, one batter after Ronny Cedeno drove in a run with a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt. The Mariners pounded out 15 hits. And Cedeno turned in a spectacular play at shortstop for the game's final out.
The bullpen continued to impress. Mark Lowe gave two solid innings of relief, entering in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and nobody out. He worked out of it to preserve what was a 6-3 lead at the time, then threw a scoreless eighth to set up a three-run frame for Seattle in the bottom half.
It was the perfect time to see this kind of effort, too, because the Mariners kick off a tough nine-game road trip Friday. Three games each against the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox could make or break Seattle's chances in the Amaerican League West as it heads toward the All-Star break.
But the Mariners seem to be encouraged by what they did in this series, taking two out of three after dropping the first game on Tuesday.
"I want to see what this team is all about," Johnson said. "This is a big road trip for us. If we can go 5-4 or 6-3, we're set."
If the Mariners keep putting runs on the board like they did for Washburn on Thursday, that seems like a realistic goal.
"As of right now, we feel like we're one of the better teams in baseball, even though our record doesn't show that," Sweeney said. "As of lately, we've been playing great baseball. I don't care who we're playing, if we just go out and play like we did today, I'll take our chances against anyone."