SEATTLE – Ken Griffey Jr. had only one concern about his first Mariners home game in 10 years.
“Don’t trip on the red carpet!”’ the 39-year-old slugger said.
The Mariners rolled out that and much more for Griffey in their latest – and perhaps loudest – home opener since 1982.
More strong starting pitching, this time from 2008 flop Carlos Silva, preceded Franklin Gutierrez’s leadoff double in the 10th inning. Gutierrez then scored the winning run on a throwing error by pitcher Scot Shields, giving Seattle a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
The surprising Mariners (6-2) are off to their best start since 2001, the last time they reached the playoffs. They have won five consecutive games, longer than any win streak in 2008.
“It’s more about the 25 guys in here, not just me. It just so happens for me it was my return, but we’ve got something special going on in here,” Griffey said.
Baseball’s active leader with 612 home runs went 1 for 3 with a walk in his first home game for the Mariners since Sept. 26, 1999.
Seattle remade itself last winter – from first-time general manager Jack Zduriencik and his new scouting staff, through Don Wakamatsu, the first Asian-American manager in the major leagues, and new players such as Gutierrez. Playing his first game in Seattle since being acquired from Cleveland in December, the dynamic center fielder tracked down two more long drives, like Griffey used to do during the star’s Gold Glove heyday here 15 years ago.
For this game, anyway, Seattle felt like it did during the Mariners’ highest times of a decade ago.
Griffey has the same parking spot and same corner locker inside “The House that Junior Built” that he had for half a season before Seattle granted his request and traded him to his hometown Cincinnati Reds nine years ago.
That house, Safeco Field, was sold out for just the second time in 12 months. It rocked when he was introduced before the game and again before he singled in his first at-bat – “Why wouldn’t I?” Griffey said, shrugging about the hit.
The stadium’s public-address system blared the same “Hip Hop Hooray” song from Naughty By Nature that was Griffey’s walk-up song during his first go-round here.
“When they called ‘Ken Griffey Jr.!’ I was still on the mound (in the bullpen), but I stopped to watch,” Silva said of the pregame scene. “It was amazing. I never saw anything like that, that crowd, that intensity.”
Seemingly every one of the 45,958 fans in attendance was standing for Griffey in the first inning, and he tipped his batting helmet to both sides of the stadium. Longtime team president Chuck Armstrong, instrumental in getting Griffey to return, also stood in his box high above home plate, pointing and marveling at a raucous scene that seemed almost unfathomable while last year’s 101-loss season was mercifully ending.
This season’s home opener didn’t sell out until after Griffey signed in February.
Griffey, who was going to start in right field until his back stiffened, was the designated hitter. The only fielding Griffey did was catching the ceremonial first pitch from friend Harold Reynolds, a former Mariners Gold Glove second baseman who helped show the teenage Griffey around the major leagues beginning in 1989.
Gutierrez doubled off Shields (0-1) before Yuniesky Betancourt deftly dropped a sacrifice bunt near the third-base line. Shields fielded it cleanly but his hurried throw was well high and wide of first base.
The ball caromed off the railing at the box seats and down the right-field line. Gutierrez ran joyously home, holding the top of his batting helmet and bracing for the pounding he received near the plate from his new teammates.
Silva, a bust in 2008 to begin a $48 million, four-year contract, allowed just four hits and two runs in seven innings.
His biggest mistake was a 3-1 fastball that Torii Hunter sent soaring just under the second deck beyond left field for a solo homer. That tied the game at 2 in the sixth.
The Angels left the bases loaded in the fifth and eighth. Roy Corcoran (1-0) escaped a jam in the 10th.
Seattle grabbed 1-0 and 2-1 leads early against Shane Loux, who took Nick Adenhart’s turn in the rotation less than a week after the 22-year-old rookie was killed in an automobile accident that has left the Angels grieving. The Mariners held a moment of silence before the game for Adenhart, among others who have died recently in baseball.
“Every inning I thought about it. Every time I came back to the dugout I thought about it,” Loux said. “It was more difficult than I thought.”
The Angels hung Adenhart’s No. 34 jersey in their dugout. Each Angels player wore a No. 34 patch on his chest.
“Right over my heart, so it wasn’t real tough to dig for inspiration,” Loux said.
The 29-year-old allowed five hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings, his first start since Sept. 24, 2003, for Detroit at Kansas City.
Mariners 3, Angels 2 (10)
|Matthews Jr. rf||4||0||1||0||0||1||.200|
|Griffey Jr. dh||3||0||1||0||1||1||.167|
E—S.Shields (1). LOB—Los Angeles 11, Seattle 6. 2B—Abreu (1), E.Aybar (2), F.Gutierrez (3). HR—Hunter (2), off C.Silva. RBIs—Guerrero (3), Hunter (3), En.Chavez (5), Beltre (4). SB—Beltre (1). S—Kendrick, F.Gutierrez, Y.Betancourt. RMU—Guerrero. GIDP—Guerrero, Cedeno. Runners left in scoring position—Los Angeles 7 (Hunter, Kendrick 3, K.Morales 2, Napoli); Seattle 2 (Branyan, En.Chavez). DP—Los Angeles 1 (E.Aybar, Kendrick, K.Morales); Seattle 1 (Beltre, Jo.Lopez, Branyan).
|S.Shields L, 0-1||2/3||1||1||0||0||0||1.80|
|Corcoran W, 1-0||1||1||0||0||2||0||0.00|
IR-S—Oliver 1-0. IBB—off Aardsma (Guerrero). HBP—by C.Silva (Kendrick). T—2:53. A—45,958 (47,878).