ANAHEIM – Strictly in terms of need, the Seattle Mariners had Carlos Silva and then everyone else Saturday.
Oh, Adrian Beltre and Ken Griffey Jr. needed a couple of hits, a few RBI – something to get them out of April doldrums in the heart of the Mariners lineup. Franklin Gutierrez probably needed the one-day break, which manager Don Wakamatsu gave him.
But in terms of pure, basic need, nothing compared to how badly Silva needed a win.
That he got one, a 9-8 decision over the Los Angeles Angels, did a great deal for his sanity and kept the Mariners winning head-to-head games against a division opponent favored to win the American League West.
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“My back started to spasm warming up in the bullpen, and Don almost took me out in the third inning,” Silva said of his manager. “I don’t know what I’d have done if he’d taken me out.”
When you talk about starting pitching slumps, Silva does come to mind. The last time he won a game was ... well ... June of last year.
Forget the salary or the four-year contract – a man doesn’t win a game in close to a year, things can get a little funny in the coconut. Last year bothered Silva so much he hired a nutritionist, a trainer and lost 30 pounds last offseason.
He worked as hard in camp as any Mariners pitcher.
And still was 0-for-3 in his starts this season, losing twice and compiling a 6.35 earned run average – on a team that was beating everyone in sight, without his help.
“Carlos is throwing better stuff than he had all of last year,” Wakamatsu insisted. “He’s throwing as well as I’ve seen him since his best days in Minnesota. Now, it’s a matter of convincing him. To do that, he has to win.”
Silva won, despite a right shoulder that stiffened – and in large part because of an offense that came to life behind him and would not allow him to fall behind.
“I count on them, they count on me,” Silva said. “I’d do anything to help this team. The way they’re playing, I just want to feel I’m doing my part to help us win.”
Russell Branyan, who homered Friday on his first swing in a week, did it again in the first inning Saturday. Facing a pitcher making his first big-league start, Ichiro Suzuki had singled and with one out, Griffey drew a walk.
With two outs, there they sat.
Branyan hit his fourth home run of the season. Silva had a 3-0 lead before taking he mound.
He never lost it.
The Angels made a run against him, got the score to 3-2 in the fourth, but Silva got out of two-on, one-out jam by getting Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter on routine ground balls.
Seattle padded its lead with a Wladimir Balentien home run, a Yuniesky Betancourt RBI double, and the Angels closed again on a Kendry Morales home run off Silva that made it 5-3.
The pattern was obvious. Whenever the Mariners added on, the Angels pecked away behind them. After he finished the fifth inning ahead, Wakamatsu went to the bullpen and patted Silva on the backside.
“He was hurting from the third inning on and just gutted it out,” Wakamatsu said.
The Mariners offense didn’t let up.
Miguel Batista gave up one run. Mark Lowe another two. Rookie Shawn Kelley got Seattle out of an eighth-inning jam – he’s yet to allow a run in six appearances – and David Aardsma finished it up but allowed a two-run home run to Torii Hunter before doing so.
“I’m getting grayer every day,” Wakamatsu said. “Brandon Morrow wasn’t available tonight, he had a stiff shoulder.”
That Mariners offense produced just enough to win.
Balentien drove in another run, as did Branyan, who had four RBI for the game. As important, perhaps, was the Mariners seventh-inning rally, which began with Ichiro’s second of three singles and a walk to Endy Chavez.
Up came Griffey, batting .190 with two RBI this season.
Catcher Rob Johnson has six RBI. Betancourt has six. Ichiro six, Jose Lopez 12 ... and Junior had two, both the result of solo home runs.
“I knew I’d get No. 3 some day,” he said, shaking his head.
Griffey singled sharply into right field for an RBI and a 7-3 lead. Right behind him, Adrian Beltre – hitting .165 – singled home another and the Mariners were meeting their needs hand over fist.
With all the feel-good subplots, there was more this game did for the team as a whole – it pushed a mini-winning streak to three games, inched their record to 12-6 and dropped the Angels squarely into fourth place in the AL West, 51/2 games behind ... Um ... Seattle.
Go ahead, say you saw that coming back in spring training. After five meetings between the two teams, the Mariners hold the edge, 4-1. And now Silva has as many wins in the series as the Angels do