SEATTLE — After getting himself in a two-strike hole, Raul Ibanez did everything he could to stay in the at-bat against John Danks.
For a dozen pitches, Ibanez hung in there. On the 13th pitch he won the struggle, hitting his 10th homer for the decisive runs in the Seattle Mariners’ 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
“At that point you just forget about the count, you forget about everything that’s happening,” Ibanez said. “At one point in the box, I said, ‘I think that’s 3-2.’ Then I said to myself, ‘It doesn’t matter. At this point, it doesn’t matter. You’re just fighting.’”
After swinging and missing at the first two pitches he saw in the third inning, Ibanez fouled off the next three before taking a ball. He fouled off four more before hitting the 13th pitch into the right-field seats for a two-run shot.
According to the team, it was the most pitches a Mariners hitter had seen before homering since at least 1988.
“I just ran out of ideas,” Danks said. “We threw hard away, soft away, hard in, soft in. I thought I had him looking in, and threw a cutter away and it was up a little more than I like.”
The White Sox have lost seven straight games, their longest slide since dropping seven in a row in September 2011. Chicago had won its previous eight games in Seattle.
Seattle starter Joe Saunders (4-5) returned to his winning ways at Safeco Field, allowing one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts. Saunders is 10-1 at the Mariners’ ballpark. The lone loss came in his previous home start against Texas on May 24, when he gave up eight runs in five innings.
“First and foremost, it’s nice to get a win to start off a series,” Saunders said. “We’ve been kind of struggling of late.”
The Mariners snapped their own two-game skid. Tom Wilhelmsen, who had blown three of his last four save opportunities, gave up a two-out RBI single to Adam Dunn in the ninth but earned his 13th save.
“It’s nice for once to see things go the right way in the ninth,” Wilhelmsen said.
Wilhelmsen walked Alex Rios leading off the inning but regrouped to strike out the next two batters before Dunn’s hit.
“You can’t try too hard, or you’re going to overthrow and walk people like I’ve been,” Wilhelmsen said. “Just relax and know you’ve done it before, and just try to stick with that. That was something I told myself today.”
In the third inning, Kyle Seager beat out a bunt single and Kendrys Morales drove him home with a double off the center-field wall before Ibanez capped the inning with his long at-bat and home run.
“That was one of the best at-bats I’ve ever seen up there,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “Left on left, him fighting through so many different pitches, fouling them off, tough pitches – neither guy was giving in. For Raul to get him in the end there, that was pretty special.”
Chicago opened the scoring in the second. Dayan Viciedo hit a bloop double to center and scored on Jeff Keppinger’s single.
Seattle answered in the bottom half when Jesus Sucre’s RBI single tied it at 1.