<
>

Perez backed by Gonzalez's 3-run homer

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- For five days, all Oliver Perez talked about
was how he wanted to begin his big league career by striking out
Ichiro Suzuki.

The 20-year-old left-hander did just that, fanning the reigning
AL MVP on a slider in the dirt. Backed by a three-run home run by
his catcher, Wiki Gonzalez, Perez won his major league debut as
the San Diego Padres beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 on Sunday.

Perez, the 11th Mexican native to play for the Padres,
understands a little English, and he smiled when he was asked
through an interpreter about striking out Suzuki.

"Yes, I set my goal to strike out the best hitter in the major
leagues right now,'' Perez said. "He hit me for a couple of hits,
but it's part of the game. I feel very excited about it.''

Suzuki finished 3-for-5, with the first two of his three singles
coming off Perez, who lasted five innings to get the decision.

After Perez struck out Suzuki, "I could see him calm down,''
Gonzalez said.

Afterward, the Padres played Mexican music on the clubhouse
stereo.

At 20 years, 305 days, Perez is the youngest player in
the majors. His contract was purchased from Double-A Mobile on
Tuesday so he could take the rotation spot of struggling rookie
Dennis Tankersley, who was sent back to Double-A.

"That was a little pressure on him, but he came through,''
manager Bruce Bochy said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to get
five innings out of him, but he made his pitches when he had to.
And we had some big hits. Wiki is just playing great ball right
now.''

The Padres won two of three games against the AL West-leading
Mariners, who came into Sunday's game tied with Arizona for the
third-best record in baseball. San Diego, which had won just three
of 14 home games coming into this series, now faces the two best
teams in baseball, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Perez started off well, with two strikeouts in each of the first
three innings.

But he gave up Dan Wilson's two-run homer with one out in the
fourth on a 90-mph fastball to fall behind 2-1. It was Wilson's
second homer.

Gonzalez then gave Perez all the runs he needed to get the
decision, hitting a three-run homer off Jamie Moyer with two outs
in the bottom of the fourth for a 4-2 lead. Gonzalez hit an 0-1
pitch into the left-field seats for his first of the season. It
came two batters after Ron Gant bunted into a double play.

"Finally, I got one,'' said Gonzalez, who broke his left hand
in the third game of the season and missed 36 games.

Gonzalez homered on an inside fastball.

"That was a mistake that cost me,'' Moyer said. "He did what a
good hitter should do, he took advantage of a mistake.''

It certainly got Perez off the hook.

"After the home run I was a little disappointed, but after
Wiki's home run, it was like coming back to life again,'' Perez
said.

Perez allowed two runs and four hits in
five innings. He struck out seven and walked four.

"It's the ultimate, the best thing that's ever happened to
me,'' Perez said of his debut. On Friday night, he'll start against
the Yankees.

Five relievers finished the six-hitter, with Trevor Hoffman
striking out the side in the ninth for his 18th save in as many
chances.

The Padres made it 5-2 on a wacky play in the fifth. With Eugene
Kingsale on first, Ryan Klesko singled to shallow left and Kingsale
headed to third. Left fielder Ruben Sierra's throw glanced off
third baseman Jeff Cirillo's glove, hit a TV camera in the
third-base camera well and rebounded to Moyer, forcing Kingsale to
hold up at third.

Bochy came out to argue that the ball should have been out of
play. The umpires huddled for a few minutes and Kingsale was waved
in.

That was all for Moyer (6-3), who allowed five runs -- four
earned -- and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out two and
walked two.

The Mariners pulled to 5-3 when pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen drew
a bases-loaded walk off rookie J.J. Trujillo with one out in the
seventh before veteran relievers Alan Embree and Steve Reed ended
the threat. Embree struck out John Olerud and Reed got pinch-hitter
Ben Davis to ground out on his first pitch.''

Game notes
In his two previous starts, Moyer didn't allow a run over
17 innings. ... Perez was the sixth Padres pitcher to make his
major league debut this year. ... LF Gant made a nice catch of
Sierra's fly ball leading off the second, catching the ball just
before crashing face-first into the padded fence.