SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners always believed they had a winning streak left in them.
Another late rally Friday night, this time on Jose Guillen’s sacrifice fly to drive home Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth inning, beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2-1 at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have won three straight, and the remaining 16 games will determine if this streak has come too late.
After suffering through a stretch when they won two of 15 games and lost the ability to determine their own playoff fate, the Mariners need help.
They didn’t get it in the wild-card race, when the Yankees scored six runs in the eighth inning and beat the Red Sox, maintaining their 5 ½-game margin over the Mariners.
“We can’t worry about it,” said closer J.J. Putz, who pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth win. “We just have to keep winning and we’ll see what happens.”
The M’s gained a game in the never-over-till-it’s-over A.L. West, which they trail by 7 ½ games over Los Angeles, which fell to the Chicago White Sox and have lost two straight.
“We’ve still got four against (Los Angeles),” Putz said. “I don’t think anything’s over.”
Nearly everything went right, despite a rough night for the offense against young Devil Rays right-hander James Shields. He held the Mariners to four hits in eight innings. They scored only in the fifth off him.
Jose Vidro led off with a double, moved to third when Kenji Johjima bunted up the third-base line for a single and scored when Willie Bloomquist grounded into a double play.
With Felix Hernandez giving the Mariners a quality start at long last, it seemed that run would be enough.
Then Jonny Gomes led off the eighth with a single and, after Hernandez got the next two hitters out, Jorge Velandia hit a fly to center that sailed over Ichiro, who was playing shallow.
“We wanted him close so he could throw out the guy (at the plate),” manager John McLaren said. “Felix just hung a breaking ball there.”
That was Hernandez’s final hitter in the Mariners’ deepest performance by a starter, 7 2/3 innings, since Jeff Weaver went that far Aug. 18 in a victory over the White Sox.
Hernandez allowed six hits but, until the eighth, no runner advanced as far as second base.
Catcher Kenji Johjima got most of the credit for that. He threw out two runners stealing.
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