Monday, July 19, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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After Learning To Play Field, Mariners Score

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Something quite odd occurred in the Mariners' victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. In fact, it borders on remarkable considering how the Seattle team is defined.

The Mariners put together a five-run inning, triggering a comeback from a 7-1 deficit to an 8-7 10-inning victory yesterday at Safeco Field. The oddity occurred in the sixth-inning rally, when Seattle scored the five runs like this: single, single, single, sacrifice fly, walk, single, single, single, sacrifice fly, pop out.

Only a discerning Mariner fan can appreciate what's missing. No doubles, no triples and no home runs. No power, just simple base hits.

"We usually rely on the two-run home run, the three-run home run to get back in these things," said third baseman Russ Davis, whose one-out single in the 10th scored pinch-runner John Mabry from second. "That could be an indication of things to come."

Granted, there have been just four games played at Safeco Field, but the constant has been that the ball does not fly. The 10 most spoken words thus far have been, "That would have been a home run in the Kingdome."

That might change. If summer ever really gets here, it might actually get hot, which could make the ball fly farther. But until then, the Mariners, the big-league leader in home runs with 155, need to find other ways to score beyond the big bop.

"I think people are grumbling about it a little bit. There have been some balls really hit hard," Davis said. "A couple outfielders even overran them, balls that would have been out in the Kingdome. But we can't make a big issue about it. We're here. We have a beautiful ballpark. Doubles and those things are just as good."

Singles, too.

San Diego figured it out. The Padres took two of three games in the opening Safeco series despite scoring a combined six runs with no home runs. Arizona also nibbled and hacked away yesterday at Mariner starter John Halama for six runs, chasing him in the third inning as the Diamondbacks had five singles, a walk and a hit batsman to score five runs.

By the sixth inning, trailing 7-1, either the Mariner hitters figured it out or they felt they had no choice but to back off to get ahead.

"Those are things we have to do," said Manager Lou Piniella, who has been imploring the front office to consider looking for more speed and contact hitters. The ball will jump better here than the first four games, but how you beat good teams and good pitchers and become a well-rounded team is by doing those things on a more consistent basis."

Halama, who entered the game with a 2.89 earned-run average, lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on six hits. His ERA spiked to 3.40. But another odd thing happened - and perhaps the park again is the factor - the Mariner bullpen held. The D-backs scored one run in the final 7 2/3 innings, giving the Seattle offense the chance to mount its comeback.

"I feel I'm making adjustments a lot quicker," said Seattle reliever Ken Cloude, who gave up a run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings. Jose Paniagua and Jose Mesa, who blew the Safeco opening with his four-walk effort, each pitched two innings and surrendered no runs. Mesa (1-4) picked up his first victory as a Mariner.

"Give all the credit to the bullpen," Piniella said.

Yet a fair amount also belongs to the hitters.

"There are a bunch of us (right-handers) in here who aren't going to hit the ball to right-center, right field," Davis said. "They used to go out over that wall in the Kingdome. But the big guys, I don't think it will create a big problem for them."

He means fellows such as Ken Griffey Jr., who hit a 407-foot bomb to straightaway center field yesterday in the fourth - his first homer in the new park, 30th homer of the season and 380th of his career.

"We have guys who hit for high averages," said Edgar Martinez. "When you hit for average, you hit line drives and use the whole field. So maybe we don't have to change our style of hitting. But it's still early. We have to play a lot longer here to see what the results will be."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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