SEATTLE – Ken Griffey Jr. started what might be his final homestand with career homer No. 628, and Felix Hernandez added another strong effort to his A.L. Cy Young Award resume in the Seattle Mariners’ 6-4 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
Griffey has been mostly evasive about his future plans following the end of the season, but the Mariners icon jolted the meager crowd that showed up on a chilly night with a three-run homer off Oakland starter Trevor Cahill in the fifth inning.
Cahill became the 406th pitcher to give up a long ball to Griffey in his storied career. Cahill (10-13) was just 13 months old when Griffey smacked his first career homer off Eric King on April 10, 1989.
Griffey’s homer gave Seattle a 5-1 lead and was more than enough run support for Hernandez, who bolstered the best season of his young career on a night he didn’t have his best stuff.
Hernandez (18-5) struggled with his control, walking four and hitting two batters, but lasted 72/3 innings and improved to 7-1 since Aug. 1. He gave up seven hits, struck out four and threw a season-high 120 pitches in his next-to-last start of 2009.
Mark Lowe struck out Cliff Pennington to end the eighth after Hernandez loaded the bases with two outs. Seattle closer David Aardsma gave up a two-run single to Kurt Suzuki in the ninth, before getting the final two outs.
Oakland missed its opportunity to capitalize on Hernandez’s early struggles, failing to score with runners at first and second and no outs in the second, and with runners on second and third and two outs in the third.
Mark Ellis had an RBI single in the fourth, but the A’s left runners at second and third in that inning.
Hernandez is among the favorites for the Cy Young in the American League. For wins, he trails only CC Sabathia, who has 19, and his 2.48 ERA is second to Kansas City’s Zack Greinke (2.06).
The 21-year-old Cahill saw his four-game winning streak snapped. He matched Hernandez early but fell apart in the fifth. Josh Wilson started the inning with a double and scored on Franklin Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly to deep center field for a 2-1 lead.
Jose Lopez then followed with a single, and after the A’s infield met at the mound, Griffey turned on Cahill’s first pitch for his 17th homer of the season.
Griffey indicated earlier this month he’d be open to playing in 2010 for Seattle if the situation worked for both sides, but has stayed silent recently.
“We actually went fishing yesterday, and he never brought it up,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said before the game. “That’s Junior’s decision, that’s (general manager) Jack’s (Zduriencik’s) decision. All I can speak of is my experience with him this year, and it’s been an honor to have a player of that caliber.”
The win assures Seattle (81-76) of at least a .500 record a season after losing 101 games. The loss means Oakland will finish last in the A.L. West for the first time since 1998.
First baseman Russell Branyan was activated from the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners after missing the last month with a herniated disk. … Seattle shortstop Jack Wilson saw a doctor to get another opinion on his bruised right heel. Wakamatsu did not believe Wilson would play again this season.
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