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The wild, wild West

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was supposed to be just a normal sunny Sunday at the ballpark. A couple early-morning interviews, watch a game, a couple more interviews etc. Talk about getting a little more than you expected! The Mariners and Athletics have 10 more meetings in the second half and they figure to be interesting ones after Sunday's heated affair in McAfee Coliseum.

Brawl_pic_2 Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez did something I've never seen before -- clear the bases and the benches with one swing of the bat on a three-run double in the seventh that keyed the Mariners' 7-3 victory. As the throw came home, it skipped away in front of the Seattle dugout into a phalanx of Mariners trotting back from the plate and coming out to celebrate the hit. Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton shoved Ichiro Suzuki out of the way -- big mistake -- to get the ball and outfielder Willie Ellison immediately took umbrage, putting up his dukes to grapple with Blanton as players streamed through the Coliseum's vast foul territory to join the fray.

You can check out the video of the fracas here. While there weren't many punches thrown, if any, there was about 20 minutes of mutual chirping and finger-pointing before play resumed.

"Blanton said something he shouldn't have said to Ichiro," Ellison said. ""It wasn't nice. That fired me up. I pushed him but he's bigger than me. I was ready [to throw punches] but I thought better of it.''

Blanton was screaming wildly on the field but was diplomatic afterward.

"I was just going after the ball," he said. "A lot of guys were standing around there. I hit somebody and I'm not even sure what happened after that but I've got no problem with a guy who comes back and defends his teammates.''

Mariners manager John McLaren, still in a sling from rotator cuff surgery, wanted to keep his players out of trouble but had to stay on the periphery of the fracas. Said McLaren: "I've been there before when you get caught in the middle. You just get squashed. I'd have had another surgery probably if I had been caught in that shuffle."

The Mariners continue to be one of the game's biggest surprises, hitting the all-star break with a 49-36 record that leaves them just 2 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West and 1 1/2 behind the Indians in the wild-card race.

---Mike Harrington

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