Lopez leads Mariners to 4-2 victory over Twins
SEATTLE (AP) -- Jamie Burke walked into the Seattle Mariners' clubhouse Sunday morning and was greeted by smiling teammates happy to see the 37-year old catcher back in the majors.
What he did on the field had them all standing and cheering.
Often praised by Mariners pitchers for his ability to call a game, Burke showed his bat can occasionally provide a spark, too. He singled in his first at-bat since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma and added a solo homer off Minnesota Twins starter Kevin Slowey in Seattle's 4-2 victory.
"It was nice to see him this morning," Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard said. "He came here this morning and he was catching right off the bat."
Jose Lopez and Russell Branyan also homered for the Mariners, who took two of three from Minnesota and have won three consecutive series. Lopez finished with three hits, including an RBI double.
Burke was designated for assignment by the Mariners on May 1 and sent outright to the minors on May 5 after clearing waivers. With starting catcher Kenji Johjima on the disabled list with a broken toe and backup Rob Johnson out for a few days with an injured left foot, the Mariners were left with only one available catcher on their active roster, Guillermo Quiroz.
Caught short-handed, the team chose to bring up Burke and designate reliever Denny Stark for assignment before Sunday's game.
"You can't get discouraged," Burke said. "There are a lot of good catchers in this organization. A lot of guys can play at this level and just never know who's going to get the call, and I wasn't discouraged at all. It's just part of the game."
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu wasted no time in putting Burke in the lineup.
"He has a history with Erik and we knew there was a comfort level there and I think they didn't miss a beat," Wakamatsu said. "He did a phenomenal job."
Burke caught many of Bedard's starts last season and the two developed a strong relationship.
"I thought he had some good stuff," Burke said. "He threw the ball well. He battled for us."
Bedard (5-2) went five innings, allowing two runs and four hits. The Twins worked him into several full counts and were able to draw four walks from the left-hander.
"I thought we worked Bedard about as good as you can work him," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We forced him to throw pitches. We did our job working him, we just never came up with the big hit against him."
Seattle's bullpen combined for four shutout innings, with Sean White earning his first career save.
Both teams struggled to hit with runners in scoring position during the series, culminating with an 0-for-17 combined performance on Sunday.
"That is why you lose baseball games and why we are struggling on the road, because we are just not hitting with men out there," Gardenhire said.
Branyan gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead with a first-inning homer. He fouled off three consecutive pitches with a full count before driving the ball over the center-field fence.
Slowey (8-2) has allowed five homers in two starts against Seattle this season. Branyan and Lopez each connected off him April 8.
Adrian Beltre opened the third with a single and scored from first on Lopez's one-out double.
Denard Span drew a leadoff walk for Minnesota in the fifth and Joe Mauer doubled, sending Span to third. Justin Morneau hit an RBI groundout, with Lopez making a sliding stop at second. Joe Crede followed with a sacrifice fly, tying it at 2.
Lopez put Seattle in front again with a leadoff homer in the bottom half before Burke's shot made it 4-2.
Notes:@ Seattle Seahawks first-round draft pick LB Aaron Curry threw out the first pitch. ... It was the second time in his career Slowey allowed three home runs in a game. The last time was June 17, 2007, against Milwaukee. ... Twins SS Brendan Harris extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a double in the sixth. ... Mauer and Morneau combined to go 3 for 23 in the series.