<
>

Ichiro sparks M's, helps Seattle avoid Yankees sweep

NEW YORK (AP) -- The big stage has been no big deal for Seattle
reliever Mark Lowe, who earned the first victory of his major
league career Wednesday before a sold-out Yankee Stadium.

Lowe marched out of the Mariners' bullpen in a big spot in the
seventh inning and pitched as if he's been doing this all his life.

New York had rallied to tie the score at 2 and had a runner on
third with one out when manager Mike Hargrove brought in the lean
right-hander. With the crowd roaring, the rookie struck out Bernie
Williams and retired Kelly Stinnett to preserve the tie.

Then Lowe was rewarded with his first big league win when Ichiro
Suzuki touched off Seattle's go-ahead rally in the eighth inning
with his third hit of the afternoon. The Mariners snapped a
four-game losing streak, defeating the New York Yankees 3-2.

The loss ended a five-game winning streak for New York, which
had won nine of 10.

Afterward, Lowe was nonchalant about the win.

"That's my role," he said. "Come in in a big situation and
get guys out and keep that guy at third. That's what I did."

Was the sold-out Stadium a distraction? No way.

"You focus on your pitches," Lowe said. "You do that, you'll
get guys out. There's nothing better than to come in and give your
team a chance to win. That's what I'm trying to do."

So far, so good.

Wednesday's game was Lowe's fourth major league appearance after
being called up on July 7 from Double-A San Antonio. He has thrown
5 2/3 innings without allowing a run with seven strikeouts and no
walks. Not bad for a 23-year-old who started the season at Class A
Inland Empire.

The Mariners nicked Yankees starter Randy Johnson for two early
runs, one of them on Richie Sexson's 19th home run, then watched
New York tie the score with two runs against Gil Meche, who retired
his first 13 batters.

Alex Rodriguez had two of the Yankees' five hits against Meche.

"He threw the ball extremely well," Rodriguez said. "I know
what Gil Meche can do. He's one of the best young pitchers
around."

Suzuki, who singled and scored in the first inning, opened the
eighth with a single against Johnson (10-8), who struck out a
season-high 11. Suzuki stole second, went to third on a throwing
error by Stinnett and scored the tiebreaking run on a sacrifice fly
by Raul Ibanez.

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove has seen this before from Suzuki.

"He's a special player," Hargrove said.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said Suzuki is a catalyst.

"He changes the game," Torre said. "The shortstop has to
shorten up. The catcher has to hurry his throw. He plays good
defense. He's got a good arm. He's the full package."

In the Yankees' sixth, with Seattle leading 2-0, Nick Green
opened with a walk and Stinnett singled. Meche got Johnny Damon to
fly out in an 11-pitch at-bat, then retired Melky Cabrera on a pop
fly.

But Derek Jeter hit an RBI single on a 3-2 pitch and stole
second before Jason Giambi bounced out, ending the inning.

New York chased Meche and tied the score in the seventh when
Rodriguez beat out an infield single and barely slid home safely on
a double by Andy Phillips. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo sacrificed
Phillips to third, and then Lowe (1-0) relieved and pitched out of
the jam.

J.J. Putz got three outs for his 18th save in 21 tries. He blew
a ninth-inning chance in the Mariners' previous game -- a 5-4 loss
in 11 innings to the Yankees that, because of a long rain delay,
ended around 12:40 a.m. Wednesday.

The Mariners jumped in front in the first against Johnson when
Suzuki opened with a single and scored on a double by Adrian
Beltre.

Sexson made it 2-0 with his second home run in two days with two
outs in the fourth. It was the 19th homer Johnson has allowed this
season in 21 starts.

Game notes
It was the 208th time Johnson has had 10 or more strikeouts
in a game. ... Meche threw 68 pitches over the first five innings
and 36 in the sixth. ... Yankees C Jorge Posada (bruised finger)
was a late scratch from the lineup, replaced by Stinnett, who threw
out two runners attempting to steal. ... Mariners SS Yuniesky
Betancourt stretched his hitting streak to nine games with a
fourth-inning single and robbed Damon of a hit in the fourth with a
backhanded, running catch of his flare to left field. ... The crowd
of 54,121 was the 30th sellout in 49 games at Yankee Stadium.