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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sexson delivers in the ninth

Richie Sexson, second from right, celebrates his game-winning hit with Greg Dobbs, Randy Winn, second from left, and Dave Hanson, right, at Safeco Field on Sunday.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Kirby Arnold Everett Herald

SEATTLE – Baffled the past two months by a league he’s trying to learn and opposing pitchers he’d never seen before, Richie Sexson took on another demon Sunday.


Sexson had struck out with the bases loaded to end the third inning, wasting the Seattle Mariners’ best opportunity to wipe out a two-run deficit against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. On his way back to the dugout, Sexson slammed himself in the helmet with his bat, then destroyed the bat on the dugout steps.

“He was about as upset as anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “I was concerned for a little bit that he was going to hurt himself.”

Instead, Sexson knocked some sense into himself and, along the way, into a Mariners offense that badly needed his production. He went on to drive in two runs with his next three at-bats, including a one-out double in the ninth inning to score Adrian Beltre with the winning run in a 6-5 Mariners victory at Safeco Field.

“Once he destroyed most of his personal property, he was fine,” Hargrove said.

Kids, don’t try that at home.

The victory enabled the Mariners to win their third straight series and five of the past seven. And they finally won their first series over the Devil Rays since Lou Piniella left Seattle to manager there two years ago. It also prevented Devil Rays starting pitcher Hideo Nomo from getting his 200th pro victory in the major leagues and Japan League combined.

Sunday turned into a get-well day on many fronts for the Mariners.

Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer settled down after two difficult innings, when the Devil Rays took a 4-0 lead, and retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced.

Sexson drove in two runs to give him 44 RBIs this season, tying him with the Angels’ Garret Anderson for fourth place in the American League.

Beltre had two hits for the first time since May 21. His ninth-inning single was the 1,000th in his career and set up Sexson’s winning hit.

Facing Devil Rays reliever Chad Orvella, who graduated from Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Wash., Sexson lined the first pitch to deep left field.

“It was right off the end of the bat,” Sexson said. “When I looked up at the last second I thought he was going to catch it.”

Left fielder Carl Crawford seemed to have a chance at the ball, but it sailed over his head and took a hard bounce off the padding. The ball skipped past Crawford and center fielder Damon Hollins raced over to pick it up.

By then, Beltre had shifted into a full sprint for home plate and reached it easily to score the winning run.

It became a satisfying finish for Sexson, who tried to punish himself for the bases-loaded strikeout in the third inning. He slammed his bat into his helmet twice as he walked to the dugout.

“It didn’t hurt,” he said. “I could have been hit by a car right there and not felt it. The offense has struggled and my job is to get those guys touching home plate, and I was upset because I didn’t get it done.”

Until the fifth inning, when the Mariners rallied with three runs to tie the score 4-4, they were cheating only themselves.

Having fallen into a familiar offensive pattern by stranding runners in scoring position and doing little to advance runners with less than two outs, they got to Nomo.

Ichiro Suzuki ended an 0-for-10 slump with a leadoff single in the fifth, followed by Randy Winn’s single and Beltre’s fielder’s choice grounder to put runners on first and second with one out.

Sexson, with a fresh unsplintered bat, singled to score one run and Boone, in a 5-for-47 tailspin, drove an opposite-field double to right-center, scoring two runs to tie the score.

The Mariners scored again in the sixth when Mike Morse led off with a single, advanced to second on Pat Borders’ sacrifice bunt and scored when Randy Winn doubled on the last of his four hits in the game.

Then the Mariners got some solid defense.

With Julio Mateo on the mound in the seventh, Beltre charged hard to field Alex Gonzalez’s roller between the mound and third base and made a strong off-balance throw for the out. Later, Julio Lugo hit a sharp grounder up the middle but Morse, a rookie shortstop, fielded it behind second base and threw to Sexson, who stretched his 6-foot-8 body to snag the wide throw.

The Devil Rays tied the score in the eighth when Josh Phelps led off with a single off Mateo and scored on Damon Hollins’ fielder’s choice grounder after right-hander Jeff Nelson had taken the mound. Nelson wound up loading the bases, but got out of the jam to give the Mariners a chance to win.

“We were down, came back and took the lead, they tied it up, we came back,” Sexson. “Things like this tend to get teams gelled.”