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05/20/10 10:21 PM ET

Mariners, Padres renew rivalry in Seattle

Now that's an object lesson. The Mariners have despaired all season over their inability to win close games and to take advantage of effective starting pitching, a pair of trends that got turned on their ear in Thursday's victory. Seattle went from scoring one run in the first eight innings to scoring three in the ninth, a rally that allowed the Mariners some solace on both counts.

That late comeback allowed the Mariners to improve to 5-11 in one-run games this season, and it also gave Seattle its 12th victory in 25 quality starts by its rotation. And now, the Mariners can look forward to playing San Diego. Seattle has won this season series four consecutive times, notching an 18-6 record against the Padres since the start of the 2006 season.

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu, who was ejected on Thursday, just wants to see his team continue to compete.

"I think it snowballs," said Wakamatsu, speaking of his team's mindset in close games. "That's why I think that if you could win one or two of those games, then all of a sudden, it starts to equal out. We are a quarter of the way through the season, and those losses have been devastating and put us where we're at. But what I said Wednesday night is the most important thing. Do we go out, play aggressive baseball and play as a team? And I thought we did. That's all I can ask of these guys."

And so the Mariners, losers in six of their lpst seven games, will hand the ball to Cliff Lee in the series opener. Lee began the season on the disabled list, but he's reeled off four consecutive starts in which he's pitched through the seventh inning. The left-hander hasn't given up a home run and has struck out 25 batters against just one walk, a quick indicator of his command and control.

The Padres will counter with Wade LeBlanc, another southpaw with some tremendous early-season numbers. LeBlanc has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any outings, and he's completed six innings four times in six starts. The former second-round draftee has seen the Padres go 5-1 in his starts, but three of those games have been decided by one run.

Wakamatsu, who just earned win No. 100 for his career, would love to see his team get a few more chances in close games.

"Some people say you are waiting to lose, and I don't buy that," he said. "There are a lot of games we have fought back in the last couple of series where we were down but they did not give up. We also played without Milton [Bradley] for a couple of weeks. Well, now he is in there, and whether it's a broken bat or infield hit, he got two hits [Wednesday]. Adding a piece like Milton can give you that, 'OK, I don't have to do everything.' This guy can help us a little bit and we feel like our offense can function [better]."

Padres: Gonzalez coming on strong
Adrian Gonzalez had a six-RBI night on Wednesday, a performance that may finally bring his All-Star credentials back into focus, and he went 1-for-3 on Thursday. Gonzalez has appeared in every game for the Padres this season, and he's reached base safely in 31 of his 40 games. Gonzalez leads his team in a host of categories, including home runs (nine), RBIs (25), walks (28) and on-base percentage.

Mariners: Glad to see Bradley return
If Wakamatsu was concerned about his team's production in one-run games, he can't help but be thrilled by Bradley's return. The veteran spent two weeks on the restricted list, but he's still tied for third on the team with 12 RBIs. The Mariners had hoped Bradley would hit well enough to get into the mix for their cleanup job, but he has just two home runs thus far.

And in his absence, the Mariners haven't gotten much production from their alternatives. The team is 0-5 when Franklin Gutierrez, the team's biggest threat, bats in the cleanup spot. Seattle has also gotten tepid support from regular cleanup guy Jose Lopez and reserve first baseman Mike Sweeney, both of whom are hitting under .230 and have totalled four homers.

Worth noting
Wakamatsu earned his 100th win on Thursday, becoming Seattle's second-fastest manager (202 games) to reach that milestone. Lou Piniella, who needed 203 games, was the third fastest to 100 wins. ... Seattle is third in the American League with 25 quality starts this season. And if you take the league's top seven, only one team -- the Orioles (seven) -- has had less victories in its quality starts than Seattle. ... The Padres have won eight of their past 10 road games, a streak that reaches back to April 27.

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


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