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M's hold on with help from bullpen


M's hold on with help from bullpen
OAKLAND, Calif. There were some thirsty Mariners sprouting more beard growth than normal by the time they left the clubhouse after their latest win.

That's because about a week's worth of beer and a few gallons of shaving cream were used on celebratory showers and pies for three bullpen newcomers achieving career firsts. This major test of Seattle's relief corps, which notched the final 17 outs Friday night in a 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics, came courtesy of the first major-league victory, appearance and save by Chris Jakubauskas, Shawn Kelley and David Aardsma, respectively.

The trio retired the final 10 hitters they faced to quell an Oakland attack that had knocked starter Ryan Rowland-Smith from this contest by the fourth inning and threatened all night to overcome an early Seattle lead.

"It's one of those things I always thought would be coming a lot earlier than this," Aardsma said of his first save, which came in his 130th outing spread over parts of four seasons. "But it feels great."

It didn't feel quite so good when, before Aardsma could utter another word, fellow reliever Mark Lowe sneaked up behind him and splattered his face with shaving cream. Aardsma had just finished showering and changing out of his beer-soaked clothes, but he wiped the stinging cream from his eyes, vowed revenge on Lowe and soldiered on with interview questions.

Much the same way Aardsma and his fellow relievers responded whenever the A's appeared poised to deal the Mariners a lethal setback. The A's stranded 14 runners on base, spoiling their home opener in front of 36,067 at the Coliseum, largely because of a group of relievers that bent but never broke.

Roy Corcoran had the most trouble among relievers, giving up a run-scoring double to Matt Holliday and two walks sandwiched around a Nomar Garciaparra sacrifice fly that cut Seattle's lead to one run in the sixth. With two on, two out and Kurt Suzuki up next, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu went to the mound and brusquely told his pitcher he needed to get an out.

"I think Wak was challenging me mentally, and I like that," said Corcoran, who induced a routine fielder's-choice grounder to escape the threat.

It didn't look early on like the Mariners would need to put their bullpen to so drastic a test.

They'd scored five runs in the second inning to take a 5-1 lead against 21-year-old A's starter Brett Anderson, courtesy of a rocket of a two-run double by Yuniesky Betancourt over the head of left fielder Holliday.

Two more runs scored on an Endy Chavez single while Kenji Johjima drove home the fifth marker. But the offense stalled, while a shaky-looking Rowland-Smith, who had thrown a ball away at first base in the opening frame to give Oakland a 1-0 lead, couldn't find the strike zone. He had walked four batters and thrown 75 pitches by the third inning and gave way to Jakubauskas one out into the fourth.

"It shows you a lot of how Wak thinks about us," said Jakubauskas, still in his beer-logged shirt and shaving cream clinging to his hair from an earlier Lowe attack. "He's willing to take a couple of real young guys experience-wise like me and Kelley and throw us into the mix."

Wakamatsu used the youngsters part of an all-right-handed bullpen against an A's club with fearsome lefty sluggers like Jason Giambi, Jack Cust and Eric Chavez.

"I've always been pretty comfortable facing lefties," Jakubauskas said. "I command the ball in pretty well against them. Since I developed a change-up, it's just one more pitch I have to throw at them."

And one more option for Wakamatsu to consider as the team moves forward.

He knew closer Brandon Morrow, who had thrown in games or warmed up the previous four contests, was unavailable to pitch the ninth. So Aardsma went six-up, six-down for the two-inning save.

"For me to be able to use a bullpen like that," Wakamatsu said, "I think it's a building block for this club."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

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Seattle @ Oakland, 1:05 p.m., no TV


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 14, 2009

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