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Mariners win Arizona League title09/01/2009 1:36 AM ET
By John Torenli / Special to MLB.com
Chris Kessinger capped a strong season with a clutch performance in the Arizona League Championship Game.
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out six over seven gutty innings and Kevin Mailloux homered Monday as the Mariners held on for a 3-2 victory over the Giants for their second AZL title in three years.
"We did it the Mariner way, and I'm really proud of this team," manager Andy Bottin said. "If I had to describe this year's team, I'd use the word family. I told them at the beginning of the year, if they played hard and stuck together, the wins would come."
Kessinger (1-0), Seattle's 37th-round pick in this year's Draft, went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 appearances (including seven starts) this season.
The 6-foot, 195-pound South Dakota native got the call to pitch the Mariners' biggest game of the year, and he responded like a seasoned veteran.
Kessinger faced one over the minimum in the first four frames as the Mariners built a 2-0 lead behind Jetsy Extrano's second-inning sacrifice fly and Mailloux's blast over the right-field wall in the third.
After yielding a one-out single in a scoreless fifth, Kessinger received more support when Mario Yepez stroked an RBI single in the sixth for a 3-0 cushion.
However, the defending-champion Giants would not go quietly.
Jesse Shriner got the Giants on the board with a one-out RBI single in the sixth, but Kessinger escaped further damage by getting Ryan Scoma to ground into an inning-ending double play.
In the seventh, Derek Dibbens walked and Leonardo Ochoa followed with a triple to cut the deficit to one, leaving Bottin with a tough decision.
"Kessinger had a low pitch count so we stuck with him, even when he got into a little trouble," the second-year skipper said.
Kessinger bore down and struck out Jake Fanning before pinch-hitter Jonathan White hit a fly ball to left field that turned into a huge double play when Ochoa wandered too far off third.
Mariners closer Jeff Breedlove worked into and out of trouble over the final two frames for the save, surrendering four hits and a walk with three strikeouts, including Carlos Quintana for the final out.
"Breedlove came in and struggled in the eighth and ninth, but he was our guy at the end all year and he was going to stay in there," Bottin said.
Giants starter Ben Wilshire (0-1) gave up two runs on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.
Ochoa finished a homer shy of the cycle for the Giants, who suffered an 8-5 loss to the Mariners in the '07 final before topping the Angels, 4-2, last year.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.