All the Seattle Mariners needed to beat Detroit tonight was all they had – a solid start by Jason Vargas, a 15-hit night by the offense and splendid relief work from Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon League.
Oh, and big nights by Alex Liddi and Michael Saunders, who combined for five hits – two doubles, a home run and four RBI – in Seattle’s 7-4 win.
“We were playing pretty well and then had a bad week at home,” rookie Liddi said. “We didn’t panic. Tonight we put men on base almost every inning and we got them in.”
That last part was the downfall of a 3-6 home stand.
“Last week was tough, some real tough losses,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Vargas came out and gave us six solid innings and then the bullpen really shut down Detroit the final three innings.
“That said, the offense really stepped it up. We had a good night with men in scoring position, and it’s hard to get over that hump.”
Given 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Mariners delivered on six of those. No one came up bigger than Saunders, the outfielder who came to spring training without a job.
No, his .229 batting average isn’t going to get him many All-Star votes, but against the Tigers his third-inning double turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-0 edge.
Then in the ninth, with the Mariners looking for an insurance run, Ichiro and Jesus Montero singled, and Casper Wells ran for Montero. With two outs, Saunders doubled again.
Ichiro scored to make it a three-run lead, and though Wells was out at the plate, the hit was clutch.
In relief, Delabar had the seventh inning and League closed Detroit out for his sixth save. The roughest work was done in the middle inning by Wilhelmsen.
“Yeah, because I gave up hits to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder,” he deadpanned afterward.
Well, there was that.
Protecting a 6-4 lead, Wilhelmsen’s inning opened with back-to-back singles, then Delmon Young yanked a ball to right field that Ichiro grabbed at the fence.
“That was in the air about two minutes,” Wilhelmsen said.
From there, he struck out Jonny Peralta on an hellacious 3-2 curveball, then blew away Alex Avila on a fastball.
“You’ve got to know you can throw that pitch for a strike there,” Wilhelmsen said of the breaking ball. “That’s my out pitch. I have confidence in it.”