SEATTLE – If there was ever a textbook method for the Seattle Mariners to win a game, they did it Saturday night in a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
•Starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn kept everything away from the center of the plate against a powerful Rangers team and gave the Mariners seven innings.
•The Mariners’ two hottest relievers finished off the Rangers, Mark Lowe pitching a perfect eighth inning and David Aardsma closing out his 19th save in the ninth.
•The defense backed up the pitching without flaw, with both left fielder Ryan Langerhans and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez throwing out runners at second base, and third baseman Jack Hannahan immediately displaying his reputation for fielding on the day he was traded to the M’s by the Oakland A’s.
•The offense muscled up with a couple of Texas-like home runs off Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, a solo homer in the third inning by Russell Branyan and a two-run crusher in the seventh by Rob Johnson that broke a 1-1 tie.
•And the brigade of Spartan helmets above the bullpen bench did their job to perfection.
The Mariners’ often-goofy band of relief pitchers has acquired an assortment of props for the pomp and ceremony that takes place nightly in the bullpen. Among them are three Spartan helmets.
When Johnson’s long fly carried over the fence to break a 1-1 tie, the ball bounced off the roof of the bullpen bench, which in turn caused one of the helmets to fall.
“Nothing hurt,” reliever Chris Jakubauskas said. “That’s what it’s there for.”
Basically, the helmets are placed in a spot on the roof over the bullpen bench so they overlook the field. In a symbolic way, they attract all that’s good for the Mariners and repel evil.
At least, it was easy to buy that argument after what happened in the seventh inning.
Johnson batted with the score tied 1-1 and Langerhans on first base after a leadoff single. With a .199 average and one career home run, Johnson was asked to drop a sacrifice.
He tried, missed and kicked the dirt he was so ticked at himself.
“I tried to bunt a slider in the dirt and I was pretty upset at myself,” Johnson said. “They count on you to do a job and you’ve got to do it.”
With two strikes and the bunt sign off, Johnson focused on making solid contact against fading Millwood.
“I’ve been working on staying below the ball and getting the head (of the bat) out, and I happened to get under it,” Johnson said.
The ball carried into the Mariners’ bullpen, where the relievers scurried to place their much-valued Spartan helmet back on its perch. The Mariners added another run in the seventh when Ichiro Suzuki’s single scored Hannahan, who had doubled.