M's Drop Cactus League Opener to Arizona, 6-4

The boys were back on the green grass of Peoria Sports Complex on Friday, but couldn't hold a late lead in a 6-4 loss. There were 9,748 fans in attendance to watch the Mariners take on the Diamondbacks in their Cactus League opener.

PEORIA - This one counted, at least in the Spring Training standings. And it's a good thing it was only spring.

In their 2004 Cactus League opener Friday afternoon, the Seattle Mariners let a 4-3 lead get away in the 9th inning when LHP George Sherrill surrendered three earned runs as Arizona came back for a 6-4 win.

Sherrill worked himself into a two-out full count situation against catcher Craig Ansman, needing just one strike to record the save. But Ansman laced a two-run double into the gap, scoring Sean Luellwitz from second base and Josh Kroeger from first.

The Mariners (0-1) failed to score, or even get a baserunner, against Diamondbacks' reliever Matt Anderson in the bottom of the inning.

Arizona took an early 2-0 lead just two batters into the game, when Matt Kata connected on a Jamie Moyer offering and sent it over the outfield fence.

The M's answered in timely fashion, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning on a triple by Ichiro Suzuki, a walk to Rich Aurilia, a RBI single to Raul Ibanez, and a two-run single by Edgar Martinez.

LHP Ron Villone wasn't able to hold the lead, however, giving up a solo homer to Shea Hillenbrand in the fourth.

The M's regained the lead on a Pat Borders two-out single in the fifth, scoring Quinton McCracken. That's where the score stayed until the D-Backs got to Sherrill in the ninth.

InsidethePark.com Player of the Day: RHP Clint Nageotte
The young right-hander's slider was wicked, and it had the Diamondbacks' batters offbalance for the duration of his two innings pitched. He located both his fastball and offspeed pitches well, and never appeared rattled even when he could have been. Take, for example, the first batter he faced, 2B Scott Hairston. Nageotte plunked Hairston, only to recover by striking out Craig Ansman on a nasty slider. A great way to open spring for Nageotte.

InsidethePark.com Play of the Day:
There were two on Friday. The first came on an amazing running catch right up against the right field wall in foul territory by Ichiro, who robbed Arizona's Luis Gonzalez. The second came at third base, where Greg Dobbs made a diving stop to his left, gathered himself, and gunned out L-Go again in the fifth inning. Poor Luis!

The M's Starting Lineup:
Ichiro RF
Aurilia SS
Boone 2B
Ibanez LF
Martinez DH
Olerud 1B
Winn CF
Wilson C
Bloomquist 3B

Odds and Ends:
Quinton McCracken looked good at the plate, showing patience to get on base early with a pair of walks. The M's will need that from Q this season if he expects to get more than 200 at bats… Ramon Santiago had a rough time in his first two at bats, both groundouts to first base, but came through with a well-hit double in the eighth. Thought of as an asset defensively, Santiago will need to continue to show his ability to handle the bat… Prized outfield prospect Shin soo Choo had a difficult time at the plate, grounding out to second in his first at bat and striking out on three pitches in the eighth. On his second trip to the dish he fanned badly at a curveball in the dirt on the third strike… A.J. Zapp also struggled after replacing John Olerud, striking out twice and going 0-3 for the day… Randy Winn didn't get tested in his first day as the M's new centerfielder. He only got two balls hit to him, one coming on a sharp grounder.

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