SEATTLE — Despite the mound struggles in Pittsburgh, despite his personal issues at the end of his tenure there, the Mariners were convinced Ian Snell still had magic in his right arm.
And Ken Griffey Jr., even at age 39, has shown periodically throughout this potentially farewell season that he still has some magic left in his bat.
On Monday, as the Mariners returned home after a disappointing road trip, those two combined, with a little help from Jose Lopez, to make Seattle’s recent blues disappear in a 3-1 victory over Oakland.
Snell, in his fifth start since coming over in a trade with Pittsburgh, turned in his best outing yet. He held Oakland hitless until two were out in the fifth inning, when Daric Barton grounded a clean single up the middle.
Snell lost his shutout in the sixth, but limited the A’s to just four hits and one run in six innings to pick up his second straight victory for Seattle.
Griffey provided the big hit, one that not only helped give the Mariners needed breathing room, but also served as the perfect response to a tense situation that was developing in the fifth.
Vin Mazzarro, the A’s rookie pitcher, had hit Lopez with his first pitch of the inning. Lopez, who had homered his previous time up and also doubled earlier in the game, glared at Mazzarro and kept staring as he walked slowly to first.
Plate umpire Marty Foster had no sooner issued a warning to both dugouts than Griffey, on a 1-1 pitch, sent a shot over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.
It was his 14th of the season and 625th of his career, and Griffey pointed at his mother, Birdie, in the stands as he crossed the plate. Coupled with his homer Sunday in Cleveland, this was the first time all season Griffey has homered in back-to-back games.
The Mariners played the game without Ichiro Suzuki, who has tightness in his left calf and probably won’t return to the lineup until at least Wednesday. Recently acquired Bill Hall played right in his absence, and Franklin Gutierrez led off. Gutierrez had a multi-hit game – three singles – and also walked.
In his second Mariners start, Snell had failed to make it out of the second inning against Tampa Bay on Aug. 8, walking six. In his next outing, he gave up eight runs in six innings against the Yankees. But in his past two starts, Snell has given up just four hits and two runs in a combined 112/3 innings, winning both games.
Snell’s control was sharp Monday as he threw 67 strikes out 99 pitches, walking two in six innings. He lost his shutout in the sixth when the A’s touched him for three singles, the last one by Kurt Suzuki to drive in the run.
The Mariners left five runners on base in the first two innings, including the bases loaded in the first against Mazzarro (4-0).
Seattle had some defensive highlights, two by left fielder Michael Saunders. He made a leaping catch on the warning track to rob Ryan Sweeney in the fifth, and a diving catch to take away a hit from Mark Ellis in the eighth. Russ Branyan also had a nice snare of a drive down the first-base line by Jack Cust in the fourth.
Sean White worked two perfect innings in relief of Snell, and David Aardsma, after giving up a leadoff double to Cust, nailed down his 29th save – his first since Wednesday at Detroit.
Beltre on field
Adrian Beltre returned to the scene of his personal nightmare, taking his place at third base during batting practice and fielding a few ground balls. It was Beltre’s first time back on the field after he suffered a severely bruised right testicle when he was hit by a ground ball Aug. 12.
Beltre also took a round of batting practice.
“He’s feeling better,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “There’s still some swelling in there.”
Beltre, who has shunned wearing a protective cup most of his career and wasn’t wearing one the night he was hit, was fully protected Monday. He probably won’t be ready to come off the disabled list when he’s eligible Friday, Wakamatsu said.
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