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Blanton conquers illness, M’s lineup


Oakland's Marco Scutaro hops over Seattle's Raul Ibanez to turn a double play.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Oakland's Marco Scutaro hops over Seattle's Raul Ibanez to turn a double play. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Janie McCauley Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. – A few times, Joe Blanton became lightheaded and thought he might throw up on the mound. The trainer and pitching coach even came out to check on him once. But Blanton kept on throwing strikes.

The rookie right-hander won his fourth straight start and Nick Swisher homered for the fourth time in as many games, leading the Oakland Athletics over the Seattle Mariners 6-2 Wednesday night for their season-best sixth straight win.

Blanton was hit by the flu bug going around the A’s clubhouse, but it wasn’t going to keep him from making his start.

“It’s going to take a lot to get me out,” he said. “I just had to do whatever I could to get through it. I knew throwing my bullpen that I was a little drained.”

It helped to have plenty of run support early. And he tried to slow down the game’s quick pace when possible.

Bobby Kielty hit a two-run double and a fourth-inning single, and Marco Scutaro had an RBI double for the A’s, who won their 10th in 11 to improve to 20-8 in their last 28 games.

The A’s keep saying the first step toward saving their season is reaching .500, and now that’s only three victories away.

Bobby Crosby extended his career-best hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning single, then added an RBI single in the eighth.

Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer in the fourth deep into a staircase beyond the left-field fence, his first homer since May 21 against San Diego and fifth of the season – a span of 110 at-bats. But the Mariners still struggled to give starter Ryan Franklin (3-10) enough run support and lost their fourth in a row and fifth in six.

Blanton (5-6) pitched eight strong innings to give the A’s their 10th consecutive win by a starting pitcher, quite a turnaround from the rotation’s May struggles. Justin Duchscherer finished the three-hitter.

“Another great outing by Joe,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “He’s been terrific. One walk, good command of all his pitches. He got a lot of grounders. I can’t say enough about this run he’s putting together.”

The switch-hitting Swisher, who is quickly becoming a contender for A.L. rookie of the year honors, connected for his ninth homer of the season leading off the second, a towering shot into the seats in right-center on a 3-2 pitch from Franklin. Swisher didn’t homer in Tuesday’s 8-1 win, but hit a pair of two-run homers in Sunday’s 16-0 victory over San Francisco – one from each side of the plate.

After a walk to Randy Winn to start the fourth, Blanton gave up Beltre’s homer. Raul Ibanez singled two batters later and Blanton was checked at the mound by trainer Larry Davis and pitching coach Curt Young.

Bret Boone then grounded into a double play and Blanton retired the final 13 batters he faced. He has a 1.17 ERA during his winning streak, allowing four earned runs in 30 2/3 innings.

“He kept the ball down all the time,” Boone said. “He was very clever. He has a cutter, curves and changes and he doesn’t walk people. These young guys in Oakland really seem to pitch well.”

The burly Blanton allowed three hits and two runs, struck out five and walked one in another impressive start for the rookie. Blanton retired the first 10 batters in his last outing Friday against San Francisco and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning of his June 14 victory against the New York Mets.

“We’ve done our best to make pitchers look good in this division,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.

Franklin has only one win in his last nine starts and six losses in that span. He received the worst run support in the majors last year and the Mariners have scored just 10 total runs with him on the mound in his last nine outings, four of those coming in one start.

“I threw good pitches but I made mistakes and they hit them,” Franklin said. “They’re a hot team right now. They found the hole. Going the way they are, they seem to hit the ball even more.”

He gave up six runs and nine hits, struck out two and walked one.

Ichiro Suzuki went 0 for 4 with three groundouts and a strikeout a day after homering and getting three hits.

Notes

The Mariners matched their season low with three hits. … Oakland reliever Chad Bradford, on the 60-day DL as he recovers from back surgery, will be in town Tuesday to be examined by team doctors. … A’s first baseman Scott Hatteberg, who played at Washington State, had the flu and didn’t play. He came to the stadium briefly to see a team doctor then went home.

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