Sparks makes quick work of Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) -- Steve Sparks had complete control of his
knuckleball and the Seattle Mariners.

Sparks pitched a five-hitter for his fifth complete game as the
Detroit Tigers beat the Mariners 4-1 Monday night.

"It's tough," said Mike Cameron, who hit two home runs and
tied Seattle's team record with eight RBI against the New York Yankees on Sunday. "It's like trying to hit a Wiffle ball in the

Shane Halter hit a two-run homer for the Tigers, who evened
their season series with the Mariners at 2-2. Detroit is the only
team that is even with the Mariners (89-36) this season.

Sparks (9-7) lost his bid for a shutout in the fifth when
Cameron doubled, Al Martin singled and David Bell hit into a double

Sparks walked none and struck out seven to beat Seattle for the
third start in a row. He beat the Mariners 9-0 on a five-hitter
here Aug. 15, 2000. The last time he lost to the Mariners was April 18,

"For whatever reason, both times I've pitched here I've had a
good knuckleball," Sparks said. "I don't know if it's the climate
or what."

Detroit manager Phil Garner seconded the motion.

"He likes it here," Garner said. "I saw him pitch his best
game last year he has ever pitched. Tonight was not as good as that
one, but he was in total control. He did a masterful job."

Sparks is tied with Oakland's Mark Mulder and Minnesota's Brad Radke for the most complete games in the AL this season.

He stymied the highest scoring team in the majors. The Mariners
scored 17 runs in winning the past two games against the Yankees.

"It was dancing all over the place," Seattle's Bret Boone
said. "The key was he didn't miss with it. A knuckleballer who
doesn't walk anybody is going to make it a long day."

Sparks worked fast. The game took 2 hours, 22 minutes -- the
fastest game the Mariners have played this season.

"I felt I could throw strikes when I wanted to and balls when I
needed to," Sparks said. "When I got ahead in the count, I tried
to make them hit a bad pitch."

Mariners manager Lou Piniella said the Mariners were hurt by
their lack of experience in facing a knuckleballer. He noted that
Boston's Tim Wakefield and Sparks were the only two knuckleballers
in the AL.

"A knuckleball pitcher is either on or he's off," he said.
"He was on tonight."

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first off Seattle's top
starter Freddy Garcia (14-5). Bobby Higginson singled, stole second
and scored on Tony Clark's double.

In the second, Randall Simon doubled and Halter followed with
his eighth homer of the season to snap a 3-for-29 skid.

Higginson singled, stole second and scored on Robert Fick's
single for Detroit's fourth run in the fifth.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 17 games
with an infield single in the first, his major league-leading 188th
of the season. He had the AL's longest hitting streak of 23 games
from April 22-May 18.

Garcia, the winning pitcher at the All-Star Game, gave up 10
hits or more for the third time in four starts in August. He also
lost for the fourth time in seven decisions since July 19.

He allowed four runs and 10 hits in seven innings.

"I didn't get a chance to pitch my game because I couldn't hit
my spots early with my fastball," Garcia said. "Every time I
wanted to throw my fastball, I couldn't control it."

Game notes
Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal second by Fick in the
first, the 13th time he's been thrown out attempting to steal this
season. He's been thrown out three straight times and five times in
his last seven attempts. Suzuki leads the Mariners with 40 steals.
... Sparks is 3-3 in his career against Seattle. It was his 10th
career complete game. ... Higginson's two steals gave him a
career-high 16 for the season. His previous high was 15 set last
season. ... The Tigers lead the majors with 12 complete games. ...
The Mariners' John Olerud went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .154
(4-for-26) in his last seven games. ... Seattle LHP John Halama
pitched two scoreless innings and now has pitched 10 consecutive
scoreless innings.