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BASEBALL EXTRA / INTERLEAGUE PLAY

Mariners Can Make Sweeping Statement

Seattle: Piniella's team is 3-0 against NL, but he wants to keep intensity for AL West rivals.

June 15, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — Let's see: The Seattle Mariners are 37-29 overall, leading the American League West by two games, and 3-0 in interleague play.

The Mariners swept the Colorado Rockies, 12-11 and 6-1, and beat the Dodgers, 9-8, Saturday before a sellout crowd of 57,345 at the Kingdome.

Lou Piniella, the Seattle manager, was asked if interleague play was providing his potent team with a chance to make a statement for down the line, an October calling card.

"I think there's some bragging rights for the league at stake, but things change so much down the line that it's not worth thinking about," he said.

"From what I've seen, interleague has given us a little bit of spark, and I think that's good. When we get through this interleague interlude we have to go back and play [AL West rivals] Texas and the Angels, and I'm hoping this intensity will hold over."

The Mariners lead the American League in almost every offensive category and have won 10 of their last 12 games, hitting 20 homers in the 10 victories while scoring 69 runs in the 12 games.

Saturday's game was typical for the Mariners when Randy Johnson doesn't pitch. Piniella was forced to use four pitchers as they wasted leads of 5-0 and 8-4 before their relentless attack prevailed. They collected 11 hits, 10 for extra bases. Ken Griffey Jr., on a pace to hit 66 homers and drive in 177 runs, slugged his 27th homer, one of Seattle's four.

Third baseman Russ Davis, who earlier had doubled twice, won it with a home run off Antonio Osuna, breaking an 8-8 tie in the ninth.

"With Ramon Martinez pitching [for the Dodgers], you don't expect to win giving up eight runs, but we've got an aggressive bunch," Piniella said. "We have a chance to put a lot of runs on the board in every game. In fact, it's disappointing when we don't."

It was a rude introduction to the Kingdome for the Dodgers, although Eric Karros, who had two homers, and Mike Piazza, who collected a homer and two doubles among four hits, clearly felt comfortable in a park that yielded 237 homers last year, high in the American League and second only to mile-high Coors Field, where 271 were hit.

"We're going to have to look at the film again and see if we can figure out how to pitch to Piazza," Piniella said. "If we do, maybe I can make some money selling it in the National League."

The Dodgers may have forgotten where they were, who they were playing and the style of attack that seems mandatory in this American League hitter's haven when they gave up an out and opted to score the eighth and tying run on Brett Butler's squeeze bunt in the eighth.

"That must be a dinosaur," Piniella said of the squeeze. "We don't see that in our league very often. It caught me by surprise, although Butler is probably the best bunter since the game was created."

Davis delivered the game winner an inning later as the sellout crowd blasted the decibel level. The Mariners, who are averaging about 38,000 overall, have averaged 50,424 for the three interleague games with another sellout on tap today.

"You can see what we're doing attendance-wise here and what interleague is doing for baseball all over," Piniella said. "I mean, 57,500. That's what it's all about."

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