June 16, 2013 in Sports

Blanco’s grand slam sparks Mariners

Associated Press
 

OAKLAND, Calif. – Henry Blanco hopped on a cross-country flight from Miami first thing Friday morning for his fresh start out West with the Seattle Mariners – still a big-leaguer as he approaches his 42nd birthday in August.

And what a memorable Mariners debut he delivered – with the bat and behind the plate catching ace Felix Hernandez.

Blanco hit a sixth-inning grand slam to break a scoreless tie and give Venezuelan countryman and good friend King Felix all the offense he needed, and Seattle beat the Oakland Athletics for the second straight game with a 4-0 victory Saturday.

He hardly saw this coming.

“I was hoping I could still get a job and show them I can still play,” said Blanco, who is playing for his 11th team. “That was a special day today.”

The 41-year-old Blanco, a .184 hitter with no home runs coming into the game, was a most unlikely candidate to provide the decisive hit for Seattle. The Mariners signed him Friday, three days after his release by Toronto. He became the oldest Seattle player ever with a slam.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge wrote Blanco into the lineup right away – and it didn’t hurt Blanco had previously caught Hernandez in the bullpen for the World Baseball Classic.

“I’m glad he did it,” Wedge said. “First of all, I thought he did a tremendous job behind home plate. You can see what he does back there, how he handles things and the way he makes it look so easy. … Talk about going up there ready to hit, bases loaded, he goes up there ready to hit and hit it a long way.”

Hernandez (8-4) struck out five of Oakland’s initial eight batters and seven through four innings on the way to eight Ks in seven scoreless innings.

Michael Morse had two doubles among his three hits, including one in the sixth before Blanco’s drive stayed just inside the left-field foul pole.

Blanco’s only other grand slam came with Milwaukee more than 13 years ago – on May 12, 2000, off Pittsburgh’s Jason Schmidt. It was the fifth-longest gap between grand slams dating back to 1900, according to information provided by the Mariners from the Elias Sports Bureau – 13 years, 34 days.

Blanco’s slam at 41 – he turns 42 on Aug. 29 – topped one by Raul Ibanez earlier this season accomplished at 40 years, 347 days.

“That’s pretty good. We’ll I’ve got it now,” Blanco said, smiling.

Hernandez allowed five hits and walked one to improve to 22-7 with a 2.70 ERA lifetime in 39 career starts in June.

SUNMONTUEWEDTHUFRISAT

JUNE

16

OAK

1:05

17

LAA

7:05

18

LAA

7:05

19

LAA

7:05

20

LAA

7:05

21

OAK

7:10

22

OAK

7:10

23

OAK

1:10

2425

PIT

7:10

26

PIT

12:40

2728

CHC

7:10

29

CHC

4:15

30

CHC

1:10

JULY

12

TEX

5:05

3

TEX

5:05

4

TEX

5:05

5

CIN

4:10

6

CIN

1:10

7

CIN

10:10

8

BOS

7:10

9

BOS

7:10

10

BOS

7:10

11

BOS

12:40

12

LAA

7:10

13

LAA

7:10

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