By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
SEATTLE – There’s little about the month of May that the Seattle Mariners want to carry over into June, except for whatever they have figured out the past three days.
Richie Sexson homered and drove in three runs, Jamie Moyer pitched six solid innings and passed Randy Johnson’s team record for victories, and the Mariners beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 Monday night at Safeco Field.
The M’s have a streak going.
They’ve won three straight for the first time since a sweep over the Royals last month in Kansas City.
The next challenge is to milk one more victory from the turnip that May has become. A victory tonight against the Blue Jays would give them a 10-17 record for the month and avoid leaving them as the second team in franchise history to finish May with nine victories.
Monday, in their 50th game, the Mariners rode Sexson’s big bat and Moyer’s stout pitching early, then survived a hold-your-breath finish by the bullpen that turned a three-run lead into one.
“You learn how to win just like you learn how to do anything else,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “It would be easier on everyone’s nerves if we had a little more cushion.”
On this team? Yeah, sure.
Sexson gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with his 13th home run this season, a two-run blast that reached the upper deck in left field, 428 feet from the plate.
Jeremy Reed followed with an RBI single for a 3-0 lead, and Sexson added a run-scoring single to center in the next inning for the Mariners’ fourth run.
Sexson, hitting .255, remains among the top half-dozen in the league in home runs and is third with 42 RBI.
“There are other ways to produce runs than having a high batting average,” Hargrove said. “If Richie can continue to produce runs the way he’s producing runs, we’re satisfied with that. He doesn’t have to hit .350.”
Moyer cruised through four innings, allowing only John McDonald’s two-out single in the third and a walk to Shea Hillenbrand in the fourth.
The Blue Jays nicked Moyer in the fifth after Eric Hinske led off with a single. Greg Zaun also singled to put runners on first and third with one out and McDonald hit a sacrifice fly for the Jays’ first run.
Moyer escaped a leadoff single to Alexis Rios and a walk to Vernon Wells and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, although it pushed his pitch count – 98 – to the point that Hargrove was forced to use the bullpen.
Julio Mateo, who struggled in his previous outing at Tampa Bay, did again.
He took over for Moyer in the seventh and gave up a leadoff pinch-hit homer to Orlando Hudson, making it a 4-2 game, before getting the next two Blue Jays.
Mateo hung a breaking pitch that Reed Johnson planted into the Jays bullpen over the left-field fence, making it 4-3. When Rios followed with a single to center, Hargrove pulled Mateo.
Hargrove said he remains confident in Mateo, who has allowed nine hits and four runs in his last 21/3 innings.
“He didn’t mean to hang those two breaking balls,” Hargrove said. “Tonight, he was short of what he’s been for us, but we’ve got a lot of confidence and we’ll run him back out there.”
Right-hander J.J. Putz followed Mateo and, on his first delivery to the plate, threw a wild pitch that allowed Rios to reach second. Putz later got Aaron Hill on a grounder to shortstop to end the inning. Hillenbrand led off the eighth with a single before Putz got Wells on a popup for the first out.
Hargrove, who has been reluctant to use inconsistent left-hander Matt Thornton in tight situations, went with him this time instead of Ron Villone, who pitched Sunday and gave up a late lead to the Devil Rays.
With the tying run on second and one out, Thornton retired Hinske on a fly to center before walking Hudson, then getting Zaun on a fly to left.
Closer Eddie Guardado, appearing in the 700th game of his career, finished off the Blue Jays with a perfect ninth for his 14th save, getting McDonald and Johnson on strikeouts before Rios hit a fly to right-center that Reed snagged with a running catch.
It finished Moyer’s 131st victory as a Mariner, giving him a 131-70 record with the team. Johnson was 130-74.
“Jamie, especially early, threw a lot of strikes and stayed ahead of hitters,” Hargrove said. “He changed speeds well and got outs when he needed outs. It was vintage Moyer.”