April 6, 2010 in Sports

Kotchman keys Mariners’ win

Two-run single in ninth saves Seattle in opener
Geoff Baker Seattle Times

OAKLAND, Calif. – One thing about these Mariners after a nail-biting season opener: They sure know how to talk.

They may act soft-spoken, but to hear second baseman Chone Figgins tell it, the infield was chatting up a storm between every pitch of a nine-inning glove-fest Monday night in which the Mariners turned four double plays. Figgins said the infielders use all the chitchat they can muster to stay loose, something they desperately needed in the tense latter stages of what became a 5-3 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Seattle nearly let this one get away until Casey Kotchman, who had used his own gift of gab to talk his way back into the No. 3 spot in the order just a day earlier, delivered a two-out, two-run single in the ninth that finally decided the contest.

The Mariners had been on the verge of handing the A’s the game in the eighth inning until Figgins and his talkative infield crew turned double play No. 4 to ensure they’d have even more to chat about with reporters.

“It’s huge when you talk to each other,” Figgins said. “Just saying anything helps.”

And the reason the Mariners were still around to let Kotchman win it on a four-RBI night – after a fourth Oakland error in that final inning as 30,686 fans at the Coliseum groaned in unison – was because the infield let its gloves do the talking as well.

Those gloves helped starter Felix Hernandez nearly make it through seven innings with a 3-1 lead despite having walked a career-high six batters. They helped Brandon League through a nervy eighth inning with the double play, his first Mariners victory secured once Kotchman came through and David Aardsma nailed it down with a flawless ninth.

The A’s actually failed to hit a single ball in the air off Hernandez the first five innings, with Seattle’s ace seemingly content to let Oakland put the ball on the ground. And the Mariners didn’t miss a chance on any grounders until shortstop Jack Wilson muffed one for an error to put two on with none out in the eighth.

Seattle had already squandered a 3-0 lead. Figgins and his destabilizing running game had managed to steal two bases, take two more on throwing errors by catcher Kurt Suzuki, then score a pair of runs before the game was three innings old.

Rob Johnson added to the lead with a solo homer to left off A’s starter Ben Sheets in the second.

But the A’s scored in the sixth and then, after consecutive walks issued by Hernandez with two out in the seventh, Sean White came on and surrendered consecutive run-scoring singles to Cliff Pennington and Rajai Davis that tied things up.

Things looked bleak for reliever League after the Wilson error in the eighth. But League tried not to let it rattle him, threw one of his trademark sinkers and watched Kevin Kouzmanoff pound it into the ground to begin a 5-4-3 double play that keyed Seattle’s escape.

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