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This time, M’s rally comes up short

Seattle threatens in ninth inning again, but Tigers prevail

SEATTLE — The Detroit bullpen did its best to melt down for a second straight night. This time Seattle couldn’t complete the ninth-inning rally.

The Mariners rallied from an early 5-0 deficit against Detroit ace Justin Verlander, loaded the bases in the ninth against versus Detroit closer Jose Valverde but couldn’t come up with the needed hit in a 6-4 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday night.

A night after Seattle scored three in the ninth to pull out a 3-2 victory, the Mariners nearly pulled off another late stunner. Valverde walked the bases loaded with two outs after issuing an intentional walk to Ichiro Suzuki and bringing rookie Jesus Montero to the plate.

Montero battled and eventually fouled a 2-2 pitch down the right field line in foul territory. Defensive replacement Don Kelly raced over and caught the final out as he crashed into the seats down the line, denying the Mariners one more pitch to try and complete another late rally.

“Our guys didn’t lay down. They battled their tails off,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “When you are down like that early against one of the better pitchers in the league, the guys didn’t give in at all.”

Seattle was down early because starter Kevin Millwood struggled yet again. Millwood (0-4) barely made it through the second and remained winless with the Mariners. Austin Jackson doubled on the second pitch of the game and Andy Dirks immediately followed with a single for a 1-0 lead. Millwood escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, and again in the fifth, but was tagged for four runs in the second.

Brennan Boesch and Gerald Laird opened the inning with singles and scored on Dirks’ double. After an out, Millwood walked Prince Fielder and Delmon Young made Seattle pay for pitching around Fielder with a line-drive double into the left-center field gap to score Dirks and Fielder, chugging around from first. Fielder later homered in the seventh.

“It all just comes down to that ‘one inning’ again,” Millwood said. “I was able to battle and get out of the first and then the second was that inning again.”

The only time Seattle got to Verlander came in an eventful third inning when Detroit manager Jim Leyland was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and Verlander got into a heated exchange with plate umpire Brian Knight but remained in the game.

Seattle got three straight singles from Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Ichiro, the last one by Ichiro scoring Ackley and getting Seattle on the board. After an out, Kyle Seager followed with a two-run single to get the Mariners within 5-3.

The Mariners made it interesting in the seventh after Michael Saunders scored on Ryan’s one-out RBI single to cut the lead to 6-4. But Detroit reliever Phil Coke got weak grounders from Ichiro and Montero to end the inning.

Then came flashbacks to a night earlier when Seattle scored three times off Detroit’s Octavio Dotel to rally for the victory. This time it was Valverde, but the inning started nearly the same. He walked Mike Carp on four pitches to begin the ninth, and was ahead of Saunders 1-2 before walking him on a 3-2 pitch. Chone Figgins entered to pinch-run for Carp, but Ackley failed to get a bunt attempt down, fell behind 0-2 and struck out.

Valverde got Ryan to hit a grounder to short for a potential game-ending double play but the relay throw from Ramon Santiago at second to first was low and Fielder couldn’t come up with it cleanly. After Ryan stole second, Ichiro was intentionally walked to bring up Montero.

Verlander won his 12th straight decision on the road. Verlander gave up three runs and seven hits, but he retired nine of his final 10 batters, struck out six and went at least six innings for the 49th straight start.