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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 9, 2008 8:15 PM

Two in a row for M's

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The pitching was there from Jarrod Washburn and the bullpen tonight and the hitting finally put something together with men on base. The result was a 7-1 victory for the Mariners over the Tampa Bay Rays, their second win in a row after an 0-4 start to this road trip.

"We know we're a talented ballclub,'' Washburn said. "Obviously Baltimore didn't go the way we wanted it. But nobody in here was real worried, I don't think.''

Washburn added: "I don't think we're the kind of team that's going to blow many teams out, but we're going to win a lot of close ballgames with the pitching staff that we have and the way we can make things happen offensively.''

This was the first real "blowout'' of the year for the M's, but the game was far closer. Washburn had just a 3-1 lead entering the sixth, something becoming all-too-familliar for M's starters. That home run by Jamie Burke really took some pressure off.

Burke said Rays reliever J.P. Howell kept busting him inside in hopes of notching a double-play grounder. As the count moved full, those inside pitches started coming closer to the plate. Burke barely missed cranking a three-run homer on the previous pitch, then cheated a little, expecting another offering -- also close to the strike zone -- and turned on it.

"I was probably guessing in more than anything and was able to keep it fair,'' said Burke said.

He'd been told earlier in the day at the team's hotel that he'd be starting at catcher in-place of the slumping Kenji Johjima. He contributed earlier, notching a single and scoring a run in the third inning. But then he popped out with runners at the corners and none out in the sixth, allowing a promising rally to begin fizzling and finally die on a Yuniesky Betancourt double-play.

But his home run finally gave the team's pitchers a lead they could relax with somewhat. Ryan Rowland-Smith looked sharp again in the eighth and Sean Green pitched a scoreless ninth.

"It was nice to put some runs on the board,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said after his team improved to 4-5. "It gave us a bit of a breather.''

These two wins, the first consecutive ones all year by the M's, also allows the team to breathe a bit.

It wasn't always pretty. But Richie Sexson, strikeouts aside, kept working counts. Brad Wilkerson notched a double. Jose Vidro drove in a run. Adrian Beltre made another error (how's that thumb?) but also a superb barehanded play. Not to mention hitting that home run in a 2-1 game.

Do you know what would make this road trip feel much better for the M's heading into their weekend series with the Angels? A sweep tomorrow. The Rays are down. They had Matt Garza and Cliff Floyd go on the DL the past 24 hours. Not a bad time for Seattle to strike. A sweep can cure a lot of ailments this time of year.

It's an eary start tomorrow, 9:40 a.m. for those of you on the West Coast. Let's see if the Mariners can carry over some of this momentum.

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