Wells delivers key hit as Mariners top O's

Wells delivers key hit as Mariners top O's

Wells delivers key hit as Mariners top O's
SEATTLE -- A Mariners team desperate for a clutch hit got a big one from Casper Wells on Monday night, as the center fielder ripped a three-run double in the seventh inning to lift Seattle to a 6-3 win over the Orioles.

The Mariners had scored just nine runs in the first seven games of the current homestand and were struggling again in the series opener against Baltimore, trailing, 3-1, with two outs in the seventh until Wells cleared the bases with his two-bagger off Orioles starter Jason Hammel.

Miguel Olivo and Dustin Ackley added back-to-back home runs in the eighth as Seattle improved to 35-47 with its highest-scoring output at Safeco Field since a 7-4 win over the Giants on June 16.

"It's huge, coming off such tight games with the Red Sox," Wells said. "It seemed like guys got a little more comfortable, getting us some cushion there at the end with Olivo and Ackley getting those homers. I'm sure that took a little pressure off Tom [Wilhelmsen] coming in. This was a good, all-around team effort."

The Mariners won a game in which they went with spot starter Hisashi Iwakuma, were without outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders due to injury and illness and had first baseman Justin Smoak and catcher Jesus Montero on the bench due to recent struggles.

But after spotting the Orioles a 3-1 lead when Iwakuma gave up a three-run blast to Chris Davis, the bullpen trio of Steve Delabar, Shawn Kelley and Wilhelmsen held Baltimore hitless for the final four frames.

That set Seattle up to pull out the win when the offense finally awoke from its Safeco slumber.

An Ackley walk and a single by Munenori Kawasaki had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, but Hammel dug in and got Brendan Ryan on a pop up that catcher Matt Wieters grabbed just before falling into the Mariners' dugout for the second out.

Ichiro Suzuki worked Hammel for a walk to load the bases before Wells delivered his double to the right-center gap on an 0-1 slider.

"I saw quite a bunch of those," said Wells, who finished 2-for-4 after striking out his first two at-bats. "He's got a pretty good one. I knew he'd be around the strike zone because there's no where else to go. The bases were pretty jam-packed there. He left it up a little and I was able to get it out there and I'm glad the guys got in to score."

Wells' hit made a winner out of Delabar, who threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts in his first appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Kelley pitched a perfect eighth before Wilhelmsen came on for his seventh save, as the Mariners' bullpen delivered once Iwakuma was replaced after throwing 71 pitches in five innings.

Seattle's relievers are 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA since June 1.

"We knew after 60-70 pitches they could be looking to get somebody in there," said Kelley. "We were ready a little early, but [Iwakuma] threw the ball well. One pitch and it was a three-run game, but we battled back. All you can do at that point as a bullpen is just hold it, and we were able to. We were ready. We were aware of his pitch count, and everybody was ready to go."

Iwakuma, 31, made his first Major League start in place of Kevin Millwood, who was pushed back to Friday due to a sore groin muscle. He gave up just three hits, with three walks and four strikeouts, though Davis did his damage with the fourth-inning bolt into the right-field seats.

With Suzuki in right field and Kawasaki getting the start at second, it was the first game in Major League history with three Japanese-born players in the same lineup.

"I was really energized to pitch because we were out there together," Iwakuma said through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba..

Kawasaki helped Seattle manufacture its first run in the third with a sacrifice bunt, and singled and scored on Wells' hit in the seventh. Suzuki was 0-for-3, but walked and scored in the seventh as well.

It was that walk and the one to Ackley leading off the seventh that had Hammel shaking his head after he dropped to 8-4 with the loss.

"I pitched well enough to win, obviously, but basically got them back into the game that last inning with a couple walks," said Hammel. "Tip your cap to Wells. He changed his approach, hit a pretty good slider off the plate. He went out and got it and put it into the gap, and that was all I wrote."

The Mariners weren't quite done, however, as Olivo and Ackley homered off reliever Troy Patton in the eighth. It was Olivo's seventh home run of the season and Ackley's fifth, but his first at Safeco this year.

"I think the discipline was a little better late, and they hit with some damage," said manager Eric Wedge. "That was a big home run by Miggy and Ack right behind him. Hopefully that's the kind of swing that can get Ackley going."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.