SEATTLE — Mike Sweeney and Josh Wilson took turns crediting the other for a rally that seemed so unlikely from the punchless Mariners.
Seattle’s old designated hitter with a balky back, and the youthful looking shortstop nicknamed “paperboy” could both take an equal stake in a second straight comeback win.
Sweeney gave Seattle a chance with a two-run homer off Detroit reliever Ryan Perry, and Wilson capped the four-run eighth inning with a two-run single as the Mariners rallied for a 5-4 win over the Tigers on Wednesday afternoon.
Seattle swept the two-game set and both times came through in the eighth inning. On Tuesday night it was Milton Bradley’s single putting the Mariners ahead for good. A day later, Sweeney, Wilson and a handful of others combined to exploit an off-day from the best bullpen in the American League.
“We really needed a defibrillator to come in here and give us a shock because we didn’t have a heartbeat for quite some time,” Sweeney said. “We lost some tough games that zapped some out of us but the last couple of games have been huge for us.”
Down 4-1 entering the eighth, and having done nothing all day against Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman, Seattle took advantage of Perry’s struggles.
Franklin Gutierrez started the eighth with a sharp single to center, but Perry (1-3) got Bradley swinging for the first out and only out he would get.
Sweeney stepped in looking for a fastball, but instead got a slider that hung at knee level. He reached down and clubbed his sixth homer in his last 10 games, a 407-foot shot to the back of the Seattle bullpen.
“It felt good coming out of my hand, but … ,” Perry said trailing off.
The rally didn’t stop with Sweeney. Jose Lopez made up for a costly error in the sixth inning with a single, and Rob Johnson followed with a double off the hand-operated scoreboard in left field that missed being a homer by just a few feet.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland stayed with Perry, despite hard-throwing Joel Zumaya standing ready in the bullpen. Wilson lined the third pitch from Perry into left-center, scoring both Lopez and Johnson.
David Aardsma then entered in the ninth and shutdown the Tigers in order for his 11th save in 13 chances. Brandon League (4-4) got the win for Seattle with 2 1-3 innings in relief.
“We’re not hitting a whole lot but when (homers) happen that’s big for us,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely a big relief and then in a one-run ball game we can get back to more of our game, get the guys out there and drive them in.”
Bonderman, a Washington native who has never thrown well in his home state, worked seven innings, giving up one unearned run and scattering five hits. He struck out six and walked two, and retired 12 of the final 14 batters.
Perry’s performance wasted Bonderman’s effort. Seattle doubled its hit total for the first seven innings in the six batters Perry faced.
“The bullpen has been outstanding like I’ve said a thousand times. The bullpen didn’t do it today. That happens,” Leyland said. “They are not going to do it every time out. Those hurt because it is a game in hand that you should have won.”
Magglio Ordonez hit a long two-run homer for the Tigers, his seventh of the season, and also had a single and double. Adam Everett added an RBI double and Austin Jackson an RBI single in the sixth as Detroit took advantage of Lopez’s error at third base.
Bonderman was also helped out by a few defensive gems by left fielder Boesch and first baseman Ryan Raburn. But Boesch’s jackknifing catch into the stands on a foul ball and Raburn’s diving stop behind the bag at first were lost in the eighth-inning problems.
Seattle starter Jason Vargas saw his streak of quality starts end at seven, but did enough to keep Seattle close. Leaving too many pitches high in the zone and catching too much of the plate, Vargas gave up seven hits — the most since his first outing of the season — but just the two runs on Ordonez’s homer.