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Mariners 6, Tigers 3

Mariners 6, Tigers 3
SEATTLE (AP) - Ken Griffey Jr. imitated Deion Sanders while crossing the plate. Adrian Beltre howled at Griffey from the middle of the field. Ace Felix Hernandez playfully laughed off early game struggles.

Suddenly, it's all fun and games in Seattle.

Beltre ignited a five-run fifth-inning comeback, doubled twice - then almost doubled over while laughing at Griffey high-stepping home - and the surging Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Friday night.

Brandon Morrow struck out two in the ninth for his third save in three chances. The win was the seventh in eight games for the formerly bickering team that lost 101 games last season.

Seattle (8-3), remade from first-time general manager Jack Zduriencik, rookie manager Don Wakamatsu down through the return of clubhouse crackup Griffey, has tied the franchise's best 11-game start and has the best record in the American League.

"It's great to enjoy what you are doing. Yeah, we get paid to do our jobs, but it's always better to enjoy it," Beltre said after he ended an 0-for-13 skid. "It's easier when you are winning, and we're winning right now. This team is unbelievably together."

Beltre's second double went off the wall in left-center field and scored the 39-year-old Griffey from first in the eighth. Griffey high-stepped across the plate to beat the catcher's tag and then grinned all the way into the dugout.

"Speed kills," Griffey deadpanned.

He called the move "my Deion," in honor of Deion Sanders. The former flamboyant superstar was strutting down NFL sidelines and major league outfields in 1990s during Griffey's first go-around in Seattle, and was a briefly teammate of Griffey's with the Reds in 2001.

Beltre mocked Griffey's high step when he got to second base. In the dugout, pitcher Carlos Silva playfully felt Griffey's chest to see how hard the old man's heart was pounding.

Griffey then stood at dugout railing and pantomimed push-ups to Beltre, as if baseball's active home run leader was saying Beltre needed more strength to hit a homer. Beltre laughed across the field at Griffey, who hit his 613th home run this week.

"He wants me to do some more lifting, so he can score more easily on those," Beltre said.

Hernandez (2-0) allowed three runs in the second but escaped with the bases loaded. He ended up allowing those three runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.

"What, you want me to go eight innings every time?" the 23-year-old asked playfully.

Seattle was scoreless and hitless through four innings while taking pitches from Justin Verlander (1-1), who had allowed 11 runs in his first two starts and struggled with command. Wakamatsu said Verlander's stuff was perhaps the best he'd ever seen.

Then Seattle changed its approach.

When Beltre led off the fifth inning with a double, it was the first time a Mariner had swung at a first pitch all night. Russell Branyan singled Beltre to third on a second pitch. Then Jose Lopez singled home Beltre on a first pitch.

After a sacrifice by Rob Johnson moved Branyan to third base, Yuniesky Betancourt hit a grounder to Brandon Inge. The third baseman's throw short-hopped catcher Gerald Laird for an error as the late-arriving Branyan slid in safely to tie the game at 2.

Branyan left the game with a tight back following the slide. He will be evaluated Saturday and may get the day off.

Then Franklin Gutierrez decided to put on his own first-pitch squeeze play. The perfect push bunt bounced off Verlander's glove to the right of the mound as Lopez scored to put the Mariners ahead.

Ichiro Suzuki, who set the Japanese record for career hits Thursday night, lined a single just over Verlander's glove to score Betancourt. Then Verlander crossed up Laird on a fastball that went to the screen for a wild pitch to score Gutierrez and make it 5-3.

The first 12 Mariners looked at the first pitch. Eight of the next 10 swung at Verlander's first offering, usually a fastball - and scored five runs on five hits.

"I felt like I had a good game plan and felt I was executing about as good as I have," Verlander said. "And then everything hit the fan.

"They started jumping on pitches early ... One of the weirdest (turnabouts) I've been part of. I'll go home, have a conversation with the baseball gods. A seance - I'll have a seance. You can't yell at them."

Verlander allowed six runs - five earned - and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

Notes: Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera had three more hits and is batting .513. "There's just no telling what he can do," manager Jim Leyland said. ... Detroit got good news on pitchers yet to make their season debuts. RHP Joel Zumaya (shoulder) has moved his rehabilitation from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo and will pitch for the Mud Hens on Saturday. "It's exciting that he's healthy," Leyland said. LHP Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday with Lakeland.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 18, 2009

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