Mariners sting Rays 2-1 with homer in ninth
SEATTLE — Raul Ibanez lined a pitch from Dan Wheeler inside the right-field foul pole, Seattle's first game-ending home run in its lost season, and the Mariners beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Thursday night.
Ibanez's fourth career walkoff home run prompted a wild, on-field celebration by the team with the AL's worst record. On-deck batter Adrian Beltre threw his batting helmet into the air the moment the ball left the bat of Ibanez, who has 16 RBIs in his last five games.
Tampa Bay began a season-long, 10-game road trip by losing for just the second time in nine games, trimming its division lead to 2½ games over idle Boston and 5½ over the New York Yankees.
The Rays dropped to 23-29 on the road, where 29 of its final 48 games will be played. The Rays are 45-17 at home. That's the largest differential between home and road success in the major leagues.
J.J. Putz (5-4) escaped trouble in the ninth and Felix Hernandez allowed just four hits and one run in eight innings for Seattle, which won for just the fourth time in 57 games when trailing after seven innings.
Wheeler (2-5) and the bullpen couldn't help the Rays after a strong performance by Andy Sonnanstine, who went to a three-ball count just once over the first six innings. Sonnanstine retired 17 consecutive batters after a double by Jose Lopez leading off the second until Lopez singled with two outs in the seventh.
Wladmir Balentien doubled and fellow rookie Bryan LaHair singled off Sonnanstine to begin the eighth. No. 9 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt then tied the game on a sacrifice fly that scored Balentien.
Trever Miller entered with pinch-runner Miguel Cairo on second and one out, then got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out before striking out Jeremy Reed to keep the game tied into the ninth.
Tampa Bay had a chance to go ahead in the top of the ninth after Putz hit Evan Longoria on the right hand with a pitch and Carlos Pena singled him to third with one out. But Putz struck out Cliff Floyd with a 97 mph fastball and Dioner Navarro with a breaking pitch low and away.
The only run of the first 7½ innings came when Hernandez allowed a walk to Carl Crawford and a single to Longoria leading off. Crawford reached third on a fielder's choice. Then with the count 2-2 on Floyd, Hernandez appeared to confuse catcher Jeff Clement, who was late to move his mitt to catch a low pitch. It clanged off Clement's lower leg to the backstop as Crawford ran home easily on what was scored a wild pitch.
Hernandez struck out five, walked three and allowed three runs or fewer for the 11th consecutive start. He stayed 7-7 and improved his ERA to 2.94 ERA, fourth in the AL.