Tribe loses a wild one to Mariners

By Ken Berger Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND _ Randy Johnson and Kenny Lofton have been known to play golf together during the offseason.

They will have plenty to talk about the next time they tee off.

Johnson's inside pitches against Lofton resulted in the ejection of both All-Stars and set off two bench-clearing altercations on Wednesday night.

But Seattle's bullpen came through for the first time this season as the Mariners snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

"Randy probably woke up the team," said Paul Spoljaric (1-0), who pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings. "It boosts the club, it boosts the morale, it takes the heat off the bullpen."

Bobby Ayala retired three straight in the ninth for the Mariners' first save in five tries. Seattle got its first road victory, beat the Indians for the first time in five tries and avoided the worst start in franchise history.

"It was nice to come from behind, take the lead and hold it," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said.

The defending AL West champions have started 4-10 for the fourth time, but avoided their first 3-11 start by beating up on another team's bullpen for a change. David Segui doubled in the go-ahead run off Paul Assenmacher (1-1) in the eighth.

Seattle relievers blew leads twice in Boston last weekend and in the first two games of this series. They came in 0-4 with an 8.84 ERA.

Trouble started stirring again when Spoljaric issued a leadoff walk to Brian Giles in the ninth. But Ayala got Travis Fryman to fly to center, struck out pinch-hitter Jim Thome on three pitches and retired pinch-hitter David Justice on a groundout.

Piniella let Ayala, who is supposed to be the Seattle closer, face the left-handed pinch-hitters with Tony Fossas warming up in the bullpen.

"I'm going to be counting on him there," said Piniella, who spent several hours talking one-on-one with his pitchers before the game.

With one out in the third, Johnson buzzed one right by Lofton's head. Lofton and the 6-foot-11 Johnson walked toward each other as the benches cleared, with Sandy Alomar the first to get between them.

Things calmed down until Piniella started screaming and going after Lofton.

"I was trying to tell the guy it was a breaking ball," Piniella said. "He was not throwing at him."

No one would reveal what Lofton said to set Piniella off.

"I don't know why Piniella was doing what he was doing," Lofton said. "Watch the tapes. Every time I face him, he's throwing at my head."

With order finally restored, Johnson threw a second pitch in almost the same spot to start another bench-clearer.

"The second one, I think Randy decided to throw at Kenny," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "That's not right."

Both benches were warned after the first pitch, so Johnson knew he'd be kicked out if he threw inside again. Alomar got in the middle of the crowd and appeared to be trying to get to Piniella or plate umpire Ed Hickox.

"I went out there to protect my player," Alomar said.

Johnson was charged with one run and one hit in 2 1-3 innings, walking one and striking out five. The bullpen blew leads in both his no-decisions, including a two-hit, 15-strikeout performance in his last start against Boston.

Lofton is one of the few left-handed batters in the American League who stays in the lineup against Johnson. The two have a little history.

"It will be very interesting to see what happens when we come back here," Seattle's Alex Rodriguez said.

Lofton has angered the Big Unit a couple of times by trying to bunt for hits. Also, Lofton scored from second base on a passed ball on a Johnson pitch in Game 6 of the 1995 AL championship series. The victory sent the Indians to their first World Series since 1954.

"They play golf in the offseason," Rodriguez said. "But in the heat of the moment, Randy is trying to get guys out.

"If you're going to talk trash to our team," Rodriguez added, "we're going to retaliate."

Giles, who replaced Lofton in center field, hit a two-run homer off reliever Bob Wells in the sixth to make it 3-0 and spoil a rare strong outing by a Seattle reliever.

Cleveland's first run came on an inside-the-park homer by David Bell off Johnson in the second.

Notes: Indians starter Bartolo Colon was knocked out of the game when Joey Cora hit a liner off his pitching hand in the sixth. Colon allowed no runs and two hits in 5 1-3 innings. X-rays on his bruised right thumb were negative. ... Wells left with a slight abdominal strain. ... The Mariners started 4-10 in 1978, '81 and '90. ... Bell, son of Detroit Tigers manager Buddy Bell, hit the Indians' first inside-the-park homer since Joe Carter's on July 18, 1989, at Minnesota off Frank Viola, and the first at Jacobs Field.

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