No backing down

MARINERS 4, RANGERS 3: Surging Seattle stands up to first-place Rangers, pulls out comeback win on Cust's RBI in eighth

May 4, 2011 

SEATTLE - Justin Smoak's RBI single in the eighth inning pulled Seattle even, Jack Cust followed with the go-ahead RBI single, and the Mariners rallied for a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Safeco Field.

Seattle won for the sixth time in seven games, thanks to a gutty pitching effort from starter Erik Bedard and some clutch hitting in the late innings.

Down 2-1 entering the seventh, Seattle pulled even off Texas reliever Pedro Strop (0-1) on Ichiro Suzuki’s double-play groundout that allowed Ryan Langerhans to score.

Texas regained the lead in the eighth on Elvis Andrus’ squeeze bunt, but Seattle rallied with two in the bottom of the inning to hand Texas its third straight loss and keep the Rangers in a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

The Mariners, who were 51/2 games behind Texas just a week ago, are only two games back.

Seattle opened the eighth inning with a bloop single by Adam Kennedy that fell in front of David Murphy in left field. Miguel Olivo then dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance pinch-runner Jack Wilson, but Strop slipped while fielding the bunt, and Olivo was safe.

Smoak grounded a 1-0 pitch into the hole between first and second. The grounder bounced off Mike Napoli as he dived, and the ball caromed into shallow right field, allowing Wilson to score and Olivo to reach third.

Darren Oliver replaced Strop and saw Cust line his first pitch back up the middle to score Olivo with the go-ahead run. Strop had allowed just one earned run in his first 10 appearances this season, but he gave up three on Tuesday.

Seattle reliever David Pauley (1-0) took over for Bedard in the eighth and saw Texas retake the lead when Julio Borbon led off with a single and scored standing up on Andrus’ perfectly placed squeeze bunt. But Pauley limited the damage to just one run, and Brandon League pitched the ninth for his eighth save in as many chances.

Smoak finished 3-for-4 with two RBI in his first home game since he left the team late last month following the death of his father.

But while Smoak continued to swing a hot bat, Bedard was the biggest story for Seattle.

The oft-injured, maligned lefty didn’t allow a hit until Ian Kinsler’s double leading off the sixth inning, even though it was a 1-1 game at the time.

Bedard couldn’t throw a strike in the first inning in what looked like was going to be a short outing. He threw 33 pitches in the first, walking Kinsler and Andres Blanco to start the game, then getting no help when Chone Figgins booted Adrian Beltre’s grounder that allowed Kinsler to score.

But after Beltre reached, Bedard was nearly perfect. He set down the next 14 batters, getting two nice defensive plays by Figgins to keep the streak going and a no-hitter alive.

That hope left when Kinsler led off the sixth with a double into the left-field corner, advanced to third on Blanco’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Michael Young’s grounder slid under second baseman Kennedy as he tried to smother it with the Mariners infield drawn in.

Bedard went seven innings, giving up two runs and three hits.

PINEDA HONORED

Mariners right-hander Michael Pineda was named the American League Rookie of the Month, which was voted on by the media.

The big right-hander couldn’t stop smiling before Tuesday night’s game.

“It’s pretty good,” he said. “I’m excited because rookie of the month is … oh, wow.”

Pineda is 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA .

SHORT HOPS

Major League Baseball announced that Milton Bradley was given a one-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount of money for his actions when he was ejected during Saturday’s game against the Red Sox. He considered appealing the suspension but decided to sit out Tuesday’s game.

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