M’s Ibanez singles out Royals

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Monday, June 5, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Wooziness is a relative feeling to Raul Ibanez, who was so sick Sunday that he couldn’t lift his head to see a pitch thrown his way.

He sat out that game, breaking a streak of 243 in a row that he’d played since 2004, but returned Monday night feeling good enough – but still not entirely well – to lead the Seattle Mariners to victory.

Weakened by his illness, Ibanez put enough solid wood on the ball to go 3-for-3 and drive in the Mariners’ first two runs in a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Like the game itself – when the Mariners spit up scoring opportunities with shoddy baserunning that got two runners thrown out – Ibanez wasn’t the prettiest sight when he suited up.

“Yesterday was brutal,” Ibanez said. “That was one of the worst episodes of my life. But it was one of those 24-hour things and it wasn’t even a question in my mind about playing today.”

He hit singles in the second, fourth and, most important, the sixth inning when he drove in Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez to break a 0-0 tie.

“Sometimes you feel weak and try to do less and it works out better,” he said. “You just try to get the fat part of the bat on the ball and relax and try not to do too much. Sometimes when you feel strong and you’re seeing everything really good, you try to over-swing.”

It was the sixth time this season Ibanez has gotten three or more hits, and the Mariners are 5-1 in those games.

The Mariners scored two more runs in the eighth when Lopez doubled to drive in a run, padding his team-high RBI total to 47, and Richie Sexson followed with an RBI single that made the score 4-1.

Those offensive burps gave the Mariners’ pitching enough late-inning wiggle room to finish what starter Gil Meche began.

Meche held the Royals to seven hits and a seventh-inning run, then let the bullpen finish.

Left-hander George Sherrill walked David DeJesus to start the eighth inning, but right-hander Rafael Soriano followed him to the mound and finished the Royals off by mixing nasty stuff with glee.

Literally.

Soriano used his fastball, splitter and slider to strike out Tony Graffanino, Doug Mientkiewicz and Reggie Sanders. He called it his best outing since he struck out Nomar Garciaparra with the bases loaded against Boston on Aug. 17, 2003.

The 21/2 years since had been rough on Soriano, who developed elbow problems and had Tommy John ligament surgery in 2005. This is his first full season back.

After he fanned Sanders for the third out, Soriano sprinted off the mound, slowing only to dance over the first-base line, and into the Mariners dugout.

“I didn’t see it,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “I think I was trying to get my heart back out of my shoes.”

Meche saw Soriano’s showy sprint into the dugout and loved it.

“I didn’t care if he did flip-flops,” Meche said. “He came in and did his job.”

The three strikeouts gave Soriano 36 this season, second most among American League relievers.

Who’s No. 1?

That would be J.J. Putz, who got the final three outs in the ninth, including a strikeout of Matt Stairs for his 38th this season. Putz recorded his sixth straight save opportunity and has eight saves this season.

It gave the Mariners three victories in the four games against the Royals and, for anyone dwelling on the standings, pulled the M’s into a tie for third place in the American League West with the Angels.

It’s still early to consider any game as a must-win situation, but Meche felt extra incentive after the Mariners gagged in a 9-4 loss to the Royals on Sunday.

“After we played the first two games of the series really well and yesterday was a little shaky, everyone felt like this was a game we needed to win,” he said.

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