Alex Liddi's fifth-inning grand slam Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field was the key to the Mariners' 5-3 victory over Texas.
The first question to Alex Liddi: How do you say “grand slam” in Italian?
He shrugged. “The same. Just grand slam.”
In any language, Liddi’s fifth-inning swing spoke volumes, and the Mariners found it to be quite eloquent in their 5-3 victory over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on Wednesday.
On the first pitch after Rangers starter Scott Feldman walked Dustin Ackley intentionally to load the bases, Liddi sent a screaming line drive that barely cleared the hand-operated scoreboard in left field.
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It was Liddi’s first grand slam, promptly dubbed an Italian salami by wags everywhere. Only one other Italian-born player had ever hit one — Reno Bertoia of the Tigers in 1958.
Suddenly, a tense 1-0 game became 5-0, and Liddi earned another career first: a curtain call. Justin Smoak pushed him out of the dugout as the matinee crowd of 23,097 continued to roar.
“It was a good moment,” Liddi said. “You always see big-time guys do it. When you get to do it, it’s a good thing.”
Liddi, who was making his second start in left field, was asked when he would become one of those “big-time guys.”
“I don’t know,” he answered with a grin. “Hopefully one day. If I keep showing what I can do, maybe one day.”
Meanwhile, the Kevin Millwood Revival Show continued its run in the victory, which gave the Mariners the series over the division-leading Rangers and was their fifth win in six games. Millwood worked six shutout innings to extend his scoreless streak to 17 innings.
The game got a little tense in the eighth when the Rangers, shut out until then, put up three runs against Tom Wilhelmsen. Two of them came on Adrian Beltre’s one-out homer to left-center field, his ninth.
But Brandon League, shaky in his past two outings, worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save. Leadoff man Nelson Cruz sent Ichiro to the wall for the first out before League struck out Yorvit Torrealba and pinch-hitter Mike Napoli.
Since giving up five runs in the first two innings against Detroit on May 8 — a start that seemed to put his spot in the rotation in some danger — Millwood has given up just one run in his past 25 innings. He is 3-0 with a 0.41 earned-run average in his past three starts.
“I think the biggest thing is that my confidence has been building for the last couple of weeks,” Millwood said. “When I got out there, I just felt I was going to have a good game and throw the ball well. When I missed, guys made good plays or they just fouled it off. Confidence goes a long way in this game.”
Liddi had botched a towering fly into the corner by Torrealba for a two-base error to start the third. But Millwood pitched out of that jam, and Liddi more than made up for his miscue in the fifth.
Michael Saunders led off with a walk against Texas starter Scott Feldman, a replacement for Mariners killer Neftali Feliz, who had been placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury.
Feldman had walked three straight to start the second inning but limited the damage to one run on a Saunders sacrifice fly. This time, however, the Mariners made him pay. Mike Carp followed with a bloop single just beyond diving shortstop Elvis Andrus, and both runners moved up when Feldman’s pickoff attempt went off the glove of second baseman Ian Kinsler for an error.
After Brendan Ryan couldn’t get them home, grounding out, Texas manager Ron Washington elected to walk Dustin Ackley intentionally to face Liddi.
“As a hitter, that was a good challenge,” Liddi said. “You want to do it because they walked the guy in front of you. I’m always pumped when that happens, no matter if I do it or not.”
This time, he did it. There was no question it had the distance, but there was some mystery whether it would have the height.
“The ball comes off his bat as good if not better than anyone we have,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Millwood, meanwhile, limited the Rangers to three hits, one of them a dribbler up the third-base line by Josh Hamilton against the Mariners’ shift. He also gave up a one-out double to Beltre, who got to third before Cruz flied out to the warning track in right. Kinsler’s single leading off the game was the only other Rangers hit off the 37-year-old right-hander.
“He’s a great example, as I’ve mentioned so many times, of a guy who goes out with a purpose for every pitch,” Wedge said. “Kevin’s been throwing the ball fantastic, and it was another outstanding effort.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @StoneLarry
|Kevin Millwood has allowed just one earned run his past three starts, after struggling early in the season.|