SEATTLE -- In recent years, Gil Meche had little chance of winning if he didn't have command of his fastball or curve.
Now, the Seattle Mariners' oft-criticized, No. 1 pick from 1996 has a Plan C: A sharp, new slider, thanks to first-year pitching coach Rafael Chaves. And he's mastered it just in time, during the final year of Meche's contract.
The Detroit Tigers would have rather hit against the old Meche on Sunday. With little zip on his fastball and no break to his curve, a resourceful Meche relied on the slider to hold baseball's best team to four hits in seven innings of Seattle's 3-2 comeback victory that snapped the Mariners' six-game losing streak.
"In the past, it would have been a disaster, because I wasn't throwing a slider last year," Meche said of not having his top two pitches.
Meche (8-4) has become what Seattle has been waiting years for -- a consistent, dependable, almost ace-like starter. He hasn't lost since May 30, eight starts ago. The only time he allowed more than two runs in that span was July 4 against the Los Angeles Angels, when he left in the sixth inning leading 5-2 and saw the bullpen allow all three of his runners to score.
Meche's status has risen enough that Seattle will restructure its rotation for the second half and give him the first start after the All-Star break, Friday at Toronto.
"Yeah, consistency is the key," Meche said. "That's what makes a pitcher."
Sunday, he walked two and struck out eight. He was helped by a two-run homer by seldom-used catcher Rene Rivera, and by Eduardo Perez, who had two hits and scored the go-ahead run in his first start since coming to Seattle from Cleveland on June 30.
Perez scored with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Yuniesky Betancourt's elusive single bounced under the glove of third baseman Brandon Inge, after Nate Robertson walked Perez.
J.J. Putz finished the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances as the Mariners ended their longest home losing streak in six years.
"We've still got a lot of baseball left," manager Mike Hargrove said of his team that is 2½ games behind Oakland and Texas in the AL West despite being three games under .500.
Robertson (8-5) lost for the third time in four starts. He allowed nine hits and a walk, and struck out five in his first complete game of the season.
Robertson breezed into the fifth inning having allowed just two singles before Willie Bloomquist doubled over the head of center fielder Curtis Granderson. Granderson has yet to commit an error in his first 139 major league games, a record among Tigers outfielders, but he first ran in on Bloomquist's line drive before it sailed over his head and over the wall on one bounce.
Two pitches later, Rivera -- a .163-hitter -- made the Tigers pay for the misplay by tying it 2-2 with a stunning home run. Rivera got the start while regular catcher Kenji Johjima began his break a day early and flew to his native Japan to be with his wife and newborn son.
"It's unfortunate. I gave up the two-run homer to a guy that obviously doesn't hit that well," Robertson said.
Meche was as good as Robertson was frustrated. Again.
"Gil was absolutely outstanding," Hargrove said. "The one thing about Gil that has been consistent this season is his consistency. And that's good to see."
Meche would have allowed only one run had he not blundered in the fourth inning. Placido Polanco grounded to Richie Sexson wide of first base. Meche covered the base and caught Sexson's short throw. But he failed to step on the bag before Polanco arrived. The infield single was Detroit's first hit.
Two batters later, All-Star injury replacement Magglio Ordonez golfed Meche's 1-2 slider into the Mariners' bullpen for his 16th home run and a 2-0 Tigers lead.
Meche escaped the inning without further scoring when he struck out Chris Shelton on a better slider with two Tigers on. Detroit didn't get a runner past first against Meche after that
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers helped Meche by being "lazy" offensively.
"A lot of lazy fly balls, balls in the air -- a little bit tired," Leyland said. "The break is certainly coming at a good time. They are ready for a well-deserved break."
How deserved? Detroit (59-29) lost for the sixth time in 27 games but entered the All-Star break with baseball's best record. The Tigers are in first place at the unofficial midpoint of the season for the first time since 1988.
The teams played in uniforms from 1969. That meant Seattle was wearing the blue and gold of the Pilots -- complete with blue caps, gold 'S' and funky, gold pilot's wings on the bill. The Pilots left Seattle after one season to become the Milwaukee Brewers. ... Detroit fell short of becoming the 10th team since 1960 to win 60 games before the break. The last was Atlanta in 2003. ... Seattle OF Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4. He is 1-for-18, dating to July 3.