Mariners escape with win despite bullpen struggles

The Mariners returned home to Safeco Field in style Tuesday, beating the Baltimore Orioles behind another strong outing from Joel Pineiro. Ryan Franklin (6-7, 3.65 ERA) takes the mound Wednesday against Rick Helling (5-6, 5.81) to try to keep things rolling for the M's.

Quietly, the early-season struggles of Seattle Mariners' young right-hander Joel Pineiro have gone away.

Pineiro, who has spotted his fastball better and regained control of his pitches over the past month, was at it again Tuesday as he led the Mariners over Baltimore, 6-5, in the first game of Seattle's final homestand before the All-Star break.

In the process, Pineiro (10-5) picked up his fourth-consecutive victory and joined fellow starters Jamie Moyer (11-5) and Gil Meche (10-4) as 10-game winners. He hasn't lost since June 11th, a 3-1 defeat to Montreal.

Pineiro's ERA is down to 3.32, and opponents are batting just .226 against him.

All this, and he's done it without much fanfare.

What has stolen the headlines, however, is the Mariners recent bullpen woes. Those struggles came to the forefront again Tuesday and nearly cost Pineiro, who pitched six innings and allowed only one run, the winning decision.

Ahead 3-1 when he left the game, the M's scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 6-1 game. Pineiro had to feel good about those insurance runs.

But the Orioles (39-47) fought back, scoring four times in the eighth inning. Two of those runs were credited to Rafael Soriano, the other two went to Arthur Rhodes. Luckily, the M's had other options, and took advantage of them.

Jeff Nelson came on to get one out in the eighth, the second out, and newly-found closer Shigetoshi Haswegawa recorded the final four outs for his fourth save.

Seattle (56-32) stormed ahead early by hitting O's starter, Jason Johnson, hard.

Ichiro Suzuki wasted little time to get the M's on the board, driving the second pitch of the game from Johnson over the right field wall for a homerun. It was his eighth homer of the season, matching his season total in each of his first two years with Seattle.

The M's scored twice more in the second on Dan Wilson's double, bringing home Mike Cameron and Mark McLemore.

Baltimore scored its lone run off of Pineiro in the third to make it 3-1 when Melvin Mora grounded out, scoring Brooks Fordyce from third base.

But Johnson, still in to pitch the sixth inning, got hit up by the heart of the M's lineup to widen the gap. Bret Boone tripled to score Ichiro and Randy Winn. The next batter, Edgar Martinez, singled Boone home to make it a 6-1 game.

Johnson, who was credited with five of the six runs, fell to 7-4 on the year. He gave up 10 hits on the night.

Rick Bauer, who came on for the final out of the sixth inning, was credited with the other earned run.

Seattle had 16 hits. Edgar and McLemore each had three. Ichiro, Winn, Boone and Wilson added two apiece.

Baltimore scored their four runs in the eighth on five hits. Mora walked to lead of the inning. Jeff Conine singled to leave runners at first and second. That's when Soriano was replaced with Rhodes.

The left-hander didn't do much better, allowing the first batter he faced, Jay Gibbons, to single home Mora. Two batters later, B.J. Surhoff singled to leave the bases loaded with only one out.

M's manager Bob Melvin then went to Nelson, who gave up a two-RBI infield single to Deivi Cruz, making it 6-4.

Following an out, Hasegawa came in to face former Mariner David Segui. Segui delived a run-scoring single, drawing the O's to within one at 6-5.

Luis Matos flied out to end the inning, and Hasegawa took care of business in the ninth to end the nail-biter.

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