Mariners outlast Rays

Rays right fielder Gabe Gross leaps but is unable to catch the home run ball hit by Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday in Seattle.<BR><I>AP?photo</I>

SEATTLE - Late-game replacement Ryan Langerhans hit a 2-2 pitch from closer J.P. Howell into the right-field bleachers for a game-ending, two-run home run and the Seattle Mariners twice rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6 in 11 innings on Friday night.

Langerhans, acquired on June 28 from Washington as third baseman Adrian Beltre went out for shoulder surgery, bent his knees and golfed a low pitch from Howell (6-3) for his first career game-ending hit. Langerhans took off his batting helmet before reaching home plate, where his new teammates mobbed him inside an impromptu mosh pit.

Langerhans' stunning homer erased a home run in the top of the 11th off Shawn Kelley (4-1) and ended Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak.

Seattle pulled to within 5 1/2 games of Boston for the lead in the AL wild-card standings, and kept the defending AL-champion Rays 2 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the same standings.

Jason Bartlett hit a 3-1 fastball, the fifth straight fastball he saw from Kelley well over the manual scoreboard on the left-field wall for his 10th home run.

But Howell walked Franklin Gutierrez, who had struck out in his first four at-bats, leading off the bottom of the 11th. New Mariner Jack Wilson sacrificed him to second and Rob Johnson flied out before Langerhans shocked Howell with his sixth blown save in 18 chances.

Seattle's earlier thrills came when the first 20,000 of the 44,378 in attendance got Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead dolls on their way in, when Russell Branyan hit his career-high 25th home run in the first - and when Griffey sent the dolls nodding with approval by hitting starter Jeff Niemann's first pitch of the seventh for his 623rd career home run. That sparked a four-run rally.

The 39-year-old Griffey has 12 home runs in 83 games this season, and is 37 homers behind Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball's all-time list.

Niemann left after allowing singles to Adrian Beltre and Wilson following Griffey's homer. He allowed four runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. Grant Balfour entered and gave up an RBI single to Rob Johnson, which Wilson nimbly jumped over between first and second to avoid a second out. That made it 5-3.

Balfour then walked pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney to load the bases. Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned reliever Brian Shouse, and Ichiro Suzuki greeted him with a two-run single grounded under his legs.

The Rays scored three runs off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in the second. Tampa Bay added two more when Burrell whacked a fastball from Hernandez off a sign honoring Jackie Robinson in the second deck beyond left field leading off the fifth. ]


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