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Griffey has a blast in win over Rangers

Griffey has a blast in win over Rangers

SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr. emerged from his first beer shower of the season on Saturday night, wearing a couple of towels and a big smile.

"I don't remember anything," he said. "I'm still shaking off this brain freeze. It was cold water."

Yeah, right.

"It's all in good fun and everybody cares about one another," he said. "When you do special things, we all try to celebrate it. It happens to be a beer shower, or cold water, or Hershey's chocolate. I didn't get the chocolate. They know I'm allergic to chocolate. That's why everybody sends me flowers, because chocolate breaks me out."

The Mariners were in their 85th celebratory mood of the season after using Griffey's 19th home run of the season, and third during the current homestand, to defeat the Rangers, 2-1, before 24,391 at Safeco Field.

Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez contributed a run-scoring single and run-saving catch in right-center field in the seventh inning, and left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith ended his season with another stellar start.

But most of the post-game attention was around Griffey.

He was asked every which way whether Sunday's season finale would be his last game with the Mariners. And in just about every which way he could dodge the question, he did.

"We're still kicking it around," he said of the possibility of returning next season. "It's important that we finish the year out and worry about it later. We'll see. I'm not in any rush. We've got a long offseason and there's going to be some changes. Hopefully it works out."

He said this season has "been fun from Day 1, not just the last week. It's been good all year."

Griffey gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with his 630th home run of the season, a line drive that just cleared the wall in right field off Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter.

Seattle increased its lead to two runs in the fifth inning when Josh Wilson doubled, advanced to third on Ichiro Suzuki's third hit of the game and scored on Gutierrez's single to left. After Jose Lopez flied out, Gutierrez stole second, prompting the Rangers to issue an intentional walk to Griffey -- and change pitchers.

Rowland-Smith, the only starter on the staff other than Felix Hernandez to toss at least eight innings in back-to-back starts, continued his great late-season kick.

"He gives us a belief system that this guy is going to be a force in our rotation next year," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I thought his aggressiveness, his tempo and the way he was attacking the strike zone, all of the above were outstanding."

The lefty from Australia held the Rangers to four hits over six innings.

That was par for the course for him. He entered the game with a .206 batting-average against during the first six innings of his starts this season. But opposing hitters were batting .397 against him from the seventh inning on.

A leadoff double, walk and double ended his shutout bid and put his now one-run lead in jeopardy. But he retired the next two batters, and was replaced by right-hander Shawn Kelley, the first of three relievers to preserve the lead.

Kelley got a huge lift from Gutierrez, who raced into the gap in right-center to catch a ball Michael Young drilled.

"I did not think he would get it," Wakamatsu said, "but he works on that over and over in batting practice and that's why he's so good in the game. He might not be the fastest, but he probably gets as good of jump on the ball of anyone I have ever seen.

"That ball was absolutely hammered. I think he's the best center fielder in the game right now."

Rowland-Smith pitched a Rowland-Smith kind of game.

He had a quick and efficient first inning, which is his history. Entering the contest, Rowland-Smith held opponents to a .184 batting average in the first inning. That continued to drop. He retired the first batter, walked the second, and took a seat in the dugout after inducing David Murphy to ground into a double play.

Rowland-Smith helped himself in the sixth inning, turning a hot shot up the middle by Marlon Byrd into an inning-ending double play. Texas had runners on first and third at the time.

"We got him, but you have to give him credit," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He bent but didn't break. He made pitches when he had to make pitches."

The final pitches of the game were thrown by right-hander Miguel Batista.

With Mark Lowe and David Aardsma needing a break, Wakamatsu turned to the veteran Batista to get the final three outs of the game, and the hurler did it in fine fashion, striking out two of the three batters he faced for his first save of the season -- coming on probably the final outing of his three-year career with Seattle.

He will become eligible for free agency at end of the World Series.

While Batista no doubt will be gone, Griffey is a good bet to be back.

Smiling and having at least one more beer shower.

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

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