SEATTLE – Of all the things the Seattle Mariners worked on at spring training – patient at-bats, selecting good pitches to hit, putting the ball in play – they never practiced what Jose Lopez pulled off Friday night at Safeco Field.
Batting with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie game, Lopez extended his at-bat against Oakland A’s reliever Russ Springer like no other. Lopez fouled off pitches to his left, to his right and straight back – nine foul balls in all – then won the game.
His single to right field on the 14th pitch of the at-bat pushed home Endy Chavez with the winning run in an 8-7 Mariners victory.
It ended a game that, even with Carlos Silva at his worst, the Mariners were at their best again against the A’s. They have won seven straight against Oakland, none with the ninth-inning dramatics of this one, thanks to Lopez’s marathon at-bat.
Endy Chavez started the final rally with a one-out single and Mike Sweeney followed with his third walk of the game. Adrian Beltre flied out to right field, and Chavez used his speed to tag and reach third.
The A’s chose to intentionally walk Russell Branyan, whose three-run homer was a key blow in the Mariners’ four-run rally in the fifth inning.
That brought Lopez to the plate either to win the game or play another inning if A’s right-hander Russ Springer could get him out. Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, who batted behind Lopez, stood in the on-deck circle without a bat and wearing all of his gear.
“With what he did last year, driving in 90 runs or so (89 actually), you feel pretty good about that guy being up there,” manager Don Wakamatsu said of Lopez. “He’s going to give you a good at-bat in that situation.”
Springer threw two balls, then two strikes that Lopez took.
Then the at-bat turned into a battle of pitches near the plate that Lopez couldn’t afford to let past him. So he fouled them off in every direction – nine in a row – before Springer finally threw a pitch up and over that plate that Lopez could handle.
Lopez drove it into right-center field for the winning hit and his third RBI of the game.
The victory was a comeback in every sense for the Mariners, who took a 1-0 lead with a run in the first inning, then saw Silva revert to his troubles of 2008.
He gave up four hits, three walks and six runs in the third, including a two-run double by Kurt Suzuki and a three-run triple by Bobby Crosby.
“Silva was pretty good the first two innings but I just thought he got some balls up and they hit them pretty hard (in the third),” Wakamatsu said.
Silva exited two outs into the fourth inning – his earned run average climbed to 7.36 – and the Mariners made their comeback.
They had scored twice in the bottom of the third on Lopez’s two-run single, then turned to power to score four times in the fifth to take a 7-6 lead.
Branyan crushed a high fly over the fence in center field for a two-run homer – his team-leading fifth home run this season. One out later, after Johjima had singled, Franklin Gutierrez connected on a pitch from A’s starter Dana Eveland, curling his fly around the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer.
Then the Mariners got some pitching.
Miguel Batista was rescued by double plays in both the fifth and sixth innings after issuing leadoff walks.
Sean White worked the next 11/3 innings but left a pitch up that Holliday hit out for a home run that tied the score 7-7.
Shawn Kelley got the last two outs in the eighth with runners on first and third, then cruised through a ninth that included impressive strikeouts of Jason Giambi and Holliday on 95 mph fastballs that froze both hitters.
“Kelley coming in and getting out of that situation was a momentum changer,” Wakamatsu said.
With the A’s starting left-hander Dana Eveland, Sweeney was the DH and Ken Griffey Jr. didn’t start. Wakamatsu said Griffey would start tonight. … Ronny Cedeno was available to play, but the Mariners continue to be cautious with their backup infielder because of a sore hamstring. … Ryan Rowland-Smith, on the DL since April 11 with triceps tendinitis, played catch for the second straight day and could be ready to throw in the bullpen by Sunday.
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