MINNEAPOLIS — With one of his smooth and still-powerful left-handed swings, Ken Griffey Jr. roused the Seattle Mariners and sent a virtual Mother’s Day card sailing over the right-field wall.
“It’s a cheap way of me not buying my mom a gift,” Griffey joked after Seattle’s 5-3 comeback victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday stopped the Mariners’ six-game losing streak.
Griffey was sure his mother, Birdie, would be smiling at his 614th career homer, a two-run shot in the eighth inning that tied it at 2.
And how’s this for being a family man? Griffey’s first and 400th home runs both came on his dad’s birthday, and he hit No. 500 on Father’s Day. This was his seventh career homer on Mother’s Day in 21 seasons.
“You try to do your best on certain days, and Mother’s Day is one of them,” said Griffey, one of several players who used a pink-painted bat for the occasion and breast cancer awareness. “You don’t want to get yelled at by Mom at home, if you take 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.”
Wladimir Balentien added an RBI double in that breakthrough eighth, ruining seven shutout innings by Nick Blackburn. Blackburn rebounded from his worst start of the season with his best, surrendering only five hits and a walk while striking out six against a Seattle lineup that produced a total of 10 runs in the previous five games.
But the Mariners broke out late, scoring half that many in the last two innings against a Twins bullpen that has been trying to steady itself for the better part of the past two years.
“It’s going to happen. Somebody struggles every day in baseball,” Blackburn said.
Left-hander Jose Mijares walked Jose Lopez in front of the homer, a pitch he left down and in – in Griffey’s “whomping zone,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Then Jesse Crain (1-1) gave up three straight hits, including a single by Russell Branyan that clipped off the top of first baseman Justin Morneau’s glove. Another run scored on a wild pitch, and Balentien’s big hit brought boos from the crowd.
“Pretty disappointing. Those two guys we count on a lot,” Gardenhire said. “That’s their inning.”
After a 12-6 start to this start-fresh season, the Mariners were stumbling badly in May. They were outscored 45-15 in their skid.
“You go through that ‘here-we-go-again’ with the offense,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “This offense shows spurts where we’re OK, but others that I just don’t have an answer for yet.”
Closer Brandon Morrow had his here-we-go-again moment in the ninth.
Making his first appearance since April 23 after sitting out with biceps tendinitis, Morrow got his sixth save despite giving up a two-out RBI single to Joe Mauer and walking Morneau and Michael Cuddyer on eight pitches to load the bases. He retired Brendan Harris on a grounder to end the game after going to a full count – all on fastballs.
“It’s up. It’s down. It’s in. It’s out. It’s all over the place,” Harris said. “He just took a little bit off the last one.”
Miguel Batista (2-0) got the last out of the seventh for the win. All four runs Morrow has allowed this year have been at the Metrodome.
“It was such a big deal for him to come back. For both of us,” Wakamatsu said.
Seattle’s Erik Bedard minimized the damage, but he didn’t exactly turn in a slump-stopping performance. It took him a season-high 110 pitches to complete a season-low 4 2/3 innings. Bedard still has not beaten the Twins in nine career starts.
Mike Sweeney, who has shared designated hitter duties with Griffey, hurt his lower back in his last at-bat of Saturday’s game. Wakamatsu said he should be able to play Tuesday. … Gardenhire was groggy, but feeling a bit better after dizziness and chills sent him from the dugout to his office for the final six innings Saturday. … Griffey’s 26 homers at the Metrodome are the second-most by a visiting player, one behind Jim Thome. He hit it through a hole in a banner advertising a $25,000 giveaway for such a feat.
Mariners 5, Twins 3
|Griffey Jr. dh||5||1||2||2||0||0||.218|
LOB—Seattle 7, Minnesota 12. 2B—Griffey Jr. (4), Balentien (4), En.Chavez (2), Morneau (9), Punto (2). HR—Griffey Jr. (3), off Mijares; Jo.Lopez (3), off Breslow. RBIs—Jo.Lopez (19), Griffey Jr. 2 (7), Balentien (3), Mauer (10), Morneau (26), Cuddyer (18). SB—Punto (3). RLSP—Seattle 2 (Y.Betancourt, Ro.Johnson); Minnesota 7 (Cuddyer, Tolbert 2, Span, Redmond, B.Harris 2).
|Batista W, 2-0||1/3||0||0||0||0||1||3.24|
|Aardsma H, 5||1||0||0||0||0||1||1.88|
|Morrow S, 6-6||1||2||1||1||2||1||4.70|
|Mijares BS, 1-1||1/3||1||2||2||1||0||4.50|
|Crain L, 1-1||0||3||2||2||0||0||7.88|
IR-S—M.Lowe 1-0, Batista 1-0, Guerrier 1-0. WP—Bedard, Crain. T—3:19. A—25,555 (46,632).
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