SEATTLE – Considering his rarified place in baseball history, it’s no wonder Alex Liddi could not stop grinning.
He also wouldn’t mind getting use to the occasional curtain call.
“Obviously, big-time guys do it and when you have to do it, it’s a good thing,” Liddi said.
Liddi hit the first major league grand slam by an Italian-born player in a half-century, Kevin Millwood threw six shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners took two of three from A.L. West-leading Texas with a 5-3 win over the Rangers on Wednesday.
Liddi made Texas manager Ron Washington pay for the decision to pitch around Dustin Ackley with one out in the fifth inning. Ackley was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Liddi lined the first pitch from Scott Feldman (0-2) just over the yellow line on top of the left-field wall for his third homer this season.
“He made one bad pitch to Liddi. Other than that, I thought he made a ton of good pitches,” Washington said of Feldman.
The opportunities for Liddi have been few. Wednesday was his 20th start in 46 games. He came up as a third baseman, but with the emergence of Kyle Seager as the Mariners’ everyday third baseman for now, Liddi has learned how to play first base and made his second start of the season on Wednesday in left field.
Almost on cue, his day started rough when he lost a fly ball against a cloudy but bright sky and committed a two-base error in the second inning. But that became an afterthought thanks to his slam in the fifth.
“He’s a guy that’s capable of doing some damage up there. He works as hard as anybody we have. That’s the reason he’s able to maintain the way he does when he doesn’t play,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s still a young hitter, but he’s learned how to hit.”
Millwood (3-4) was brilliant for a third consecutive start. Coming off a two-hitter at Colorado, Millwood gave up three hits in six innings. Only a high pitch count ended his day early.
Millwood silenced another former team, and holding the top offense in baseball to just three hits might have been more impressive than his complete game against the Rockies. Millwood has gone 17 straight innings without allowing a run, the second-longest streak of his career.
“The biggest thing was just confidence has been building for the last couple of weeks, so I felt like when I got out there it just felt like I was going to have a good game and throw the ball well,” Millwood said. “When I missed, guys made good plays or they just fouled it off. Confidence goes a long ways in this game.”
Texas made it interesting, breaking up the shutout with Josh Hamilton’s RBI double and Adrian Beltre’s two-run homer in the eighth off reliever Tom Wilhelmsen. But Brandon League rebounded from some shaky recent outings and shut down the Rangers in the ninth for his ninth save in 12 chances.
Liddi’s slam was just the second in major league history by an Italian born player. Reno Bertoia hit a grand slam on May 7, 1958, for Detroit against Washington.
“As a hitter it’s always a good challenge, because they just walked the guys in front of you,” Liddi said. “I’m always pumped when that happens.”
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