Langerhans hits two-run homer in 11th to complete Mariners' rally

SEATTLE -- Never has coming off the bench felt -- or tasted -- so good for Ryan Langerhans.

Seattle's reserve pinch-ran in the seventh inning after sitting for two-plus hours, then stayed in the game. In the 11th, Langerhans hit a 2-2 pitch from closer J.P. Howell into the right-field bleachers for a game-ending, two-run home run and the Mariners twice rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6 on Friday night -- one of the wildest wins of their surprising season.

Langerhans, acquired on June 28 from Washington as third baseman Adrian Beltre went out for shoulder surgery, bent his knees and golfed a fifth consecutive curveball from Howell (6-3) for his first career game-ending homer.

It was also the first home run Howell had allowed to a left-handed batter in 70 plate appearances this season. It erased a homer in the top of the 11th by Jason Bartlett off Shawn Kelley (4-1), and ended Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak.

Langerhans took off his batting helmet before reaching home plate, where his new teammates mobbed him inside an impromptu mosh pit.

"I've heard people say when you get your helmet on, it hurts more when they hit you in the head," he said.

Mike Sweeney, the man for whom Langerhans pinch-ran in the seventh, shoved an ice cream pie into his new teammate's face in the raucous dugout.

"At least it didn't burn my eyes," Langerhans said, recalling Seattle's usual celebrations of shaving-cream dishes in a hero's mug. "And it tasted good."

Seattle, which lost 101 games last season, pulled to within 5 1/2 games of Boston for the lead in the AL wild-card standings.

The defending AL-champion Rays stayed 2 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the same standings.

Bartlett hit a 3-1 fastball from Kelley well over the manual scoreboard on the left-field wall for his 10th home run.

But Howell walked Franklin Gutierrez, who had struck out in his first four at-bats, leading off the bottom of the 11th. New Mariner Jack Wilson sacrificed him to second and Rob Johnson flied out before Langerhans shocked Howell with his sixth blown save in 18 chances.

Howell, who was trying to get a five-out save for the first time in 11 months, bent at the knees and stared dejectedly into the turf near the mound as chaos reigned around him.

"I tried to make my pitch and I didn't," Howell said in a matter-of-fact tone. "It's tough to swallow, but that's what we're good at -- swallow and move on.

"That is when you love to play every day. When you do something like this, you can't wait to get back out there."

Seattle's earlier thrills came when the first 20,000 of the 44,378 in attendance got Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead dolls on their way in, when Russell Branyan hit his career-high 25th home run in the first -- and when Griffey sent the dolls nodding with approval by hitting starter Jeff Niemann's first pitch of the seventh for his 623rd career home run. That sparked a four-run rally.

The 39-year-old Griffey has 12 home runs in 83 games this season, and is 37 homers behind Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball's all-time list.

Niemann left after allowing singles to Beltre and Wilson following Griffey's homer. He allowed four runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. Grant Balfour then allowed an RBI single to Rob Johnson, which Wilson nimbly jumped over between first and second to avoid a second out. That made it 5-3.

Balfour walked pinch-hitter Sweeney to load the bases, bringing Langerhans into the game to run. Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned reliever Brian Shouse, and Ichiro Suzuki greeted him with a two-run single grounded under his legs.

The Rays scored three runs, two unearned, off ace Felix Hernandez in the second. Tampa Bay added two more when Pat Burrell whacked a fastball from Hernandez off a sign honoring Jackie Robinson in the second deck beyond left field leading off the fifth. It was Burrell's second home run in as many days, and ninth of the season.

Burrell added an RBI groundout in the seventh to make it 5-1.

Game notes
SS Wilson, acquired last week from Pittsburgh, wowed in his first home game for Seattle. He went into short left field to field a hard grounder by Burrell with the bases loaded in the first and made a strong throw for an inning-ending force out. In the eighth, he sprawled into the outfield grass, got up and threw on two hops to retire speedy B.J. Upton. That earned Wilson a standing ovation. ... Hernandez allowed five runs -- three earned -- and a career-high tying six walks in six-plus innings. The other time Hernandez walked six was on July 28, 2006, in a 1-0 loss at Cleveland. ... The Rays designated C Michel Hernandez for assignment after the game, to clear roster space for Gregg Zaun. They acquired the veteran catcher from Baltimore earlier in the day for cash or a player to be named later.