Devil Rays done in by rookie
SEATTLE — It was Willie Bloomquist’s day at Safeco Field. In fact, Bloomquist turned in a real solid weekend.
The rookie had his biggest day in the majors, hitting a grand slam for his first career homer and driving in six runs as the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 13-2 on Sunday.
“Let me guess. You want to talk about Willie Bloomquist,” Mariners manager Bob Melvin said as he settled in for a postgame interview.
Joel Pineiro (11-5) won his sixth straight start, throwing seven strong innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk, improving to 7-1 over his last nine starts.
“The spotlight is on Willie today,” Pineiro said. “He had a grand slam in the first inning. He made diving stops and double plays. It gives you so much confidence to go out and know guys are going to make plays.”
Ichiro Suzuki went 3-for-5 with a triple in the sixth. Along with two singles, he headed for the All-Star game after his major league-leading 46th multi-hit game.
The Mariners took two of three in their first series against former manager Lou Piniella and the Devil Rays.
Bloomquist was already a popular player in Seattle because he grew up a devoted Mariners fan in Port Orchard, Wash., just across Puget Sound. His first-inning slam brought cheering fans to their feet.
“It was a pretty good rush, kind of like being in a dream,” said Bloomquist, who planned to give the ball to his father. “I took a good hack at it. It’s kind of a blur. I don’t really remember it.”
Bloomquist lined a 3-1 pitch from reliever Rob Bell over the hand-operated scoreboard in left to give the Mariners a 6-0 lead in the first, sending the sellout crowd of 45,602 into an early frenzy.
“I didn’t want to walk in a run,” Bloomquist said. “He gave me a fastball. I wasn’t trying to hit a home run. I was trying to get it out there somewhere, but it was middle-in and I got hold of it.”
Bloomquist singled in the fifth, driving in two runs as Seattle stretched the lead to 10-2. It hardly mattered to fans when Bloomquist was thrown out trying for second on the play.
Bloomquist performed well in the field, too. He made a stabbing stop of a hard-hit grounder by Toby Hall at third in the sixth, then leaped to his feet and threw Hall out.
“It’s great to see a guy who works as hard as he does get some results. It’s all coming together for him, defensively and at the plate,” said Melvin, adding that Bloomquist “had a Brooks Robinson day.”
Tampa Bay starter Jason Standridge (0-5), who walked four of the seven batters he faced in two-thirds of an inning, threw only 10 strikes in his 31 pitches.
“He just couldn’t find the plate,” Piniella said. “His last two starts haven’t been good at all.”
Bloomquist’s success creates an intriguing situation at third base, where regular starter Jeff Cirillo has been outstanding defensively but for the second straight year is struggling at the plate.
Before the game, Melvin said Bloomquist would start for the third straight day. He was 3-for-5 with a double and a run-scoring triple in the first two games of the series.
Melvin said afterward that Bloomquist will play more in the season’s second half.
“Good news,” Bloomquist said. “I want to be out there and participate, contribute as much as I can. For him to say that, hopefully I’ll be in there a little more and I hope to make something happen.”
Melvin also said Cirillo, a former All-Star, had strained his right shoulder in the batting cage. Cirillo is hitting .218 with 22 RBIs. A career .304 hitter, he hit .249 in 2002, his first season in Seattle.
“To have a grand slam and six RBIs and he’s from here, there’s not enough good things I can say about Willie Bloomquist,” said Cirillo, insisting he was pleased for the rookie. “There’s no controversy from here.”
Notes: Cirillo was booed when he replaced Carlos Guillen as a pinch-runner in the seventh and stayed in at third. Bloomquist moved to shortstop. … Hall’s two-run homer pulled the Devil Rays to 6-2 in the second. … Over his last six starts, Pineiro has a 2.08 ERA. … Fans cheered “Lo-o-o-o-u” when Piniella visited the mound in the first to remove Standridge, a rookie who is still seeking his first major league win. He has made eight starts and 17 appearances.