Washburn solid as Mariners get win over Rays

BY foxsports • April 22, 2009

Jarrod Washburn is having fun again.

Washburn tossed seven strong innings to continue his surprising start, catcher Rob Johnson had a two-run triple and the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Washburn has won his first three decisions for the first time since he started his career 4-0 in 1998. He gave up two runs in the first, matching his season total for earned runs entering the game, then limited the Rays to just three hits the rest of his outing.

Washburn was 5-14 with a 4.69 ERA as the Mariners stumbled to 101 losses last season, so he's really enjoying Seattle's 9-5 start this year.

"It's exciting, we're looking forward to coming to the park," he said. "Winning is fun. I'm out there yelling and screaming out there, I don't even know what I'm doing, but I like it that way."

Johnson's triple was part of Seattle's three-run fourth against Andy Sonnanstine as the Mariners spoiled Joe Maddon's 500th game as manager of the Rays. Tampa Bay has lost six of seven.

Hardly considered a strikeout pitcher, Washburn finished with nine Ks - one short of his career high. He struck out Carlos Pena three times, helping end Pena's 12-game hitting streak, and his final strikeout of the night sent Carl Crawford away with a runner on third in the seventh. Washburn hopped off the mound with a fist-pump knowing his work was done.

"(Washburn) reinvented himself. I saw a different pitcher," said Maddon, who was the bench coach with the Angels when Washburn was there. "He is throwing entirely different than in the past. ... He is a different cat right now."

Evan Longoria hit an RBI double and Pat Burrell singled in a run in the first for Tampa Bay. But Washburn faced just one other jam in the fourth, squeezing out of a bases-loaded situation when Akinori Iwamura dribbled a grounder to third to end the inning.

Washburn (3-0) gave up five hits and walked three, but actually saw his ERA rise from 1.29 to 1.71. He improved to 12-3 against Tampa Bay.

"I'm not getting better. My ERA actually went up," Washburn cracked.

David Aardsma worked the eighth and Brandon Morrow finished the six-hitter for his fourth save in four chances.

Seattle didn't do much against Sonnanstine (0-2), but strung together just enough offense in the fourth. Mike Sweeney was hit by a pitch leading off and Jose Lopez followed with a hit-and-run single that finished with Sweeney belly flopping into third.

Gabe Kapler was playing noticeably shallow in center field with Johnson at the plate - by design Maddon said - and the young catcher made him pay. Johnson lined a 2-2 pitch over Kapler's head and raced around to third as Sweeney and Lopez scored.

Two batters later, Yuniesky Betancourt burned Kapler again with a triple to left-center to score Johnson. The Mariners almost had another run but Kapler made a diving grab of Endy Chavez's drive to end the inning.

"We take a lot of chances," Maddon said. "The thing is I want us to play an aggressive defense. We want to play aggressively on defense according to our information."

Sweeney had an RBI single in the first, an inning helped along by Ken Griffey Jr.'s attempted bunt as Tampa Bay put on a significant shift. The bunt wasn't very good but Chavez was safe at second on a bad throw by Sonnanstine and scored on Sweeney's hit.

"You've got two Hall of Famers trying to bunt just to keep the train going," Sweeney said about Griffey's bunt and another later by Ichiro Suzuki. "It was a team effort."

Notes: Maddon passed Larry Rothschild for the most games managed in Tampa Bay history. Maddon said before Tuesday's game he has no concerns about not having a contract for next season. "Zero concern. I have no concern at all about that," he said. "I believe I'm going to be here for many years and I want to be here for many years." ... The roof at Safeco Field has been open for the first seven home games this season for the first time in the 10-year history of the stadium.