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Sunday, June 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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M's give a royal pounding

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Jose Lopez wore all the wrong things on purpose Saturday.

He dressed slowly after the game — bright flower shirt blinding passers-by, gaudy white wristwatch straight out of a low-budget rap video, camouflage shorts, black socks and brown loafers — and lingered in the locker room, proud to be among the worst-dressed Mariners on Bad Dress Saturday.

The Mariners started this tradition a few Saturdays ago. And on a night when all were supposed to dress wrong — someone spotted closer J.J. Putz in spandex — everything else went right.

They beat the Kansas City Royals for their third straight win, a 12-1 victory in front of a boisterous and thankful 29,659 who have been reminded time and again this season not to get too excited, but couldn't help but be encouraged by what they saw.

What they didn't see, well, that's another story altogether. Let's just say that Lopez never felt so good and looked so bad at the same time.

"Do you like the outfit?" he asked.

His? No. The Mariners? Yes. The punchless or hapless or woeful — all the usual prefaces — Royals? Not so much.

By the time this game concluded, the Mariners had more to thank Kansas City for than barbecue.

These Royals are losers of two straight at Safeco Field. Contributors to Seattle's winning streak, Joel Pineiro's record, Ichiro's hit total and at least a one-night reprieve for struggling sluggers Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson.

Those two combined for three home runs Saturday — matching Beltre's season total — and all came in the first four innings, staking the Mariners to an 11-1 lead. Struggling sluggers united, and Sexson blasted away in the first inning and in the fourth, notching five runs batted in, the 22nd multihomer game of his career and the Mariners' first this season.

"He's shown signs the last three or four games," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "It was good to see, and we needed that."

Sexson entered this game with a .206 batting average and power numbers that don't match his towering frame. Hargrove recently moved him down to fifth in the batting order, shifting Beltre into the 2-hole and deciding to hit Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez in between them.

So far, the switch has sparked the Mariners' offense. Beltre-Lopez-Ibanez-Sexson combined for seven runs and nine RBI on Saturday.

"I want to hit fourth," Sexson said. "Hopefully, I can hit my way back in there. But so far, [the switch] has been working out great."

Just ask Joel Pineiro. The Mariners starter cruised through the first two innings on 21 pitches, managed only a slight drop-off after the offense gave him the lead and evened his record at 5-5. Pineiro pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and one run.

He said his sinker felt good, and because he stayed mostly ahead of the Royals and kept his pitches down, he produced a lot of ground-ball outs. He struck out the side in the fifth inning and retired eight batters in a row at one point before Matt Stairs singled again with two outs in the sixth.

"You don't want to put that in your head," Pineiro said of getting a big lead. "You don't want it to make you lazy. You have to take advantage of it when it happens."

The Mariners' offense wasn't the only aid available to Pineiro on Saturday. Home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds also played a role.

The Royals nearly scored in the third inning when Ibanez's throw to home pulled catcher Kenji Johjima to the right of the plate, and replays showed Paul Bako reaching there just before Johjima tagged him.

Reynolds ruled him out, and the inning ended with a slew of Royals — Bako, third-base coach Brian Poldberg and manager Buddy Bell among them — jawing at the umpire.

"I thought I had a good chance of getting him," Ibanez said. "Johjima made a nice play."

Close enough on a night when the only things that went wrong for the Mariners were their outfits. They never looked so good — and so bad — at the same time.

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Monday, May 6

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AL West W L Pct. GB Div. Streak
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y - clinched division, x - clinched playoff berth

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