The Tigers' Placido Polanco gets taken out by Adrian Beltre while trying to turn a double play in the seventh inning.
JIM BRYANT / AP Enlarge
SEATTLE - Once Ichiro Suzuki heard that backup catcher Jamie Burke was about to take the mound, he hustled over to manager Jim Riggleman and volunteered his services.
If the Seattle Mariners were desperate enough to use their third-string catcher on the mound, why not their all-star right fielder?
Having already shuffled through the able bodies in the bullpen, the Mariners went beyond their second and third options, asking Burke to enter in the 15th inning and adding a comical tone to a 1-all game yesterday afternoon.
But Burke's effort certainly wasn't a joke. Burke threw well for a catcher-turned-pitcher, but the Detroit Tigers finally broke through with a sacrifice fly from Marcus Thames to escape with a 2-1 win over the Mariners and a split of the four-game series.
Burke became the third position player in Mariners' history to take the mound. His first pitch was 82 mph, and he hit 86 on the stadium radar gun.
But while players in both dugouts hugged the railings and stood on the top step snickering at the situation, Miguel Cabrera was too busy taking advantage. Cabrera lined a double to center field, lumbering into second. He was lifted for pinch runner Michael Hollimon, who advanced to third when Burke (0-1) tried to throw a slider that slipped from his hands and ended up in the netting of the backstop.
Thames then lifted a fly ball to deep left field that easily scored Hollimon with the winning run.
"I take it very seriously because it was an important game for us," Cabrera said. "I have to do the best I can do."
Burke did rebound nicely. He got a groundout from Ivan Rodriguez and a fly out from Edgar Renteria and headed to the dugout to a standing ovation.
Todd Jones pitched the bottom of the 15th for his 16th save in 17 chances, picking up the win for Aquilino Lopez (3-1), who pitched a scoreless 14th despite a potentially costly error from left fielder Clete Thomas.
"It was definitely one of the weirdest games I've been in," Jones said. "To have a position player have to pitch in the game was just an unfortunate break, but a good one for us."
Riggleman was forced to use Burke because his bullpen was spread thin. Reliever Arthur Rhodes woke up with a sore arm and couldn't get loose. Brandon Morrow had pitched four of the previous five days, and Riggleman wanted to give him a day off. Tomorrow's scheduled starter, Carlos Silva, had thrown on the side earlier yesterday.
Lost in the novelty of Burke's appearance was outstanding pitching on both sides, most notably Detroit starter Nate Robertson.
Robertson was outstanding, pitching nine innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run.