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Notes: Rotation set in stone
08/06/2006 4:38 PM ET
SEATTLE -- Good health, good luck and good pitch counts have conspired to give the Mariners a leg up in one statistical category over the 29 other Major League teams.

Going into Sunday's game against the Oakland A's, the Mariners were the only team that has used the same five starting pitchers this season.

How rare an occurrence is this? Consider that every other Major League team has used at least seven starting pitchers this season.

"Sometimes you've got to be lucky in this game," Seattle pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. "So many things can happen where you'll miss a start. But we've had our guys healthy all year."

Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro, Jarrod Washburn and Felix Hernandez have been durable if nothing else this season. Meche made his 23rd start of the season Sunday, and Moyer, Washburn and Pineiro have each made 22 starts. Hernandez has made 21 starts.

"They've pitched well enough where we haven't had to think about taking anyone out of the rotation or skipping starts," Chaves said. "We have been comfortable sending guys out there every fifth day. We know we'll have a chance to be in every ballgame."

Another factor that has helped Seattle's starters this season is lower pitch counts, which have typically led to fewer innings than other pitchers in the American League.

Moyer ranks 13th in the American League in innings (143), but Washburn (23rd), Meche (32nd), Hernandez (34th) and Pineiro (35th) rank near the bottom.

"Guys have shown to be durable and we have tried to keep pitch-counts down," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "Certainly having our bullpen pitch the way it has all year has allowed us to do that."

Although he's been impressed by the statistic, Hargrove wasn't quite ready to turn cartwheels about it.

"It's a very rare occurrence when that happens," he said. "We've still got a lot of baseball left to play."

Welcome back: A day after he returned from the 15-day disabled list, Mariners relief pitcher Rafael Soriano made his first appearance since July 19 when he threw one inning in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the A's.

Soriano has been battling right-shoulder fatigue.

Soriano walked two and struck one batter during a scoreless inning in which he threw 21 pitches, 13 for strikes.

Soriano retired Marco Scutaro on a fly ball and got Mark Ellis to strike out before walking Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay. Finally, Soriano got Milton Bradley to ground out to end the inning.

"I thought the first two hitters he threw real well, and then he kind of lost his release point when he walked the next two guys," Hargrove said. "He threw more pitches than I hoped he would, but after being off 15 days, that's probably typical."

When asked if there were particular checkpoints he was looking for to make sure Soriano was OK, Chaves didn't point to velocity or location.

"You look to see if he's over-compensating and if he's finishing pitches," Chaves said. "I think his arm looked great. He was a little rusty, but he looked fine."

Two outs, big trouble: In the first two games against the A's, the Mariners have allowed 10 runs -- seven of which have come on hits with two outs.

Hargrove was asked why this has happened. Run-scoring hits with two outs have been a common occurrence this season.

"I don't think it's concentration or focus at all, it's executing," Hargrove said. "A lot of times when it happens, it's a guy trying to make the absolute perfect pitch. For whatever reason, they're trying to be too perfect."

The A's scored four of their five runs with two outs in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Mariners, with three runs coming in the second inning on RBI singles by Kendall, Kotsay and an RBI double by Bradley off Pineiro.

"The hits they got off Joel were pitches that were up," Hargrove said. "I think that's what we saw yesterday."

Mariners log: Entering play Sunday, the Mariners had lost 11 consecutive games against the A's. The franchise record for most consecutive losses against an opponent was set during the 1977 and 1978 seasons when Seattle dropped 15 straight games to Boston. ... Rookie reliever Mark Lowe set the new franchise record for most consecutive shutout innings to begin a career (14 2/3 innings) in his 11th game Saturday. Tim Davis holds the franchise record for most consecutive shutout appearances (13) to start a career (April 4-May 9, 1994).

On deck: Seattle opens a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. PT on Monday against the Tampa Bay Devils Rays. Jamie Moyer (6-10, 4.15) gets the start in the opener. He'll face Tim Corcoran (4-2, 3.54). FSN will televise.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.