Don’t adjust your computer monitor, but Henry Blanco just hit a grand slam in the sixth inning to give the Mariners a 4-0 lead. Blanco, who soon turns 42, surpasses Raul Ibanez as the oldest player in MLB to hit a grand slam this season. Maybe Elias Sports Bureau can find out when the last time a team had two guys ages 41 hit slams in the same season.
Anyhow, that’s a huge lead for Felix Hernandez, who gave Blanco a hug in the dugout. Hernandez is 16-3 when the Mariners give him at least four runs of support.
5:50 p.m.: The Mariners left two more men on in the fifth as Kyle Seager swung at a 3-0, then a 3-1 pitch, popping out foul on the latter. Jed Lowrie led off the bottom of the fifth with a double against Felix Hernandez, then took third on a flyout. But Hernandez escaped as Chris Young flied out to shallow right and Endy Chavez threw out Lowrie trying to tag up and score. Henry Blanco had the plate nicely blocked and Lowrie never touched home as he tried the hook slide around him.
5:15 p.m.: This game is following a familliar pattern already, with both teams scoreless midway through the fourth and the Mariners stranding baserunners. The Mariners are outhitting the A’s 3-1 and has a fourth baserunner reach on a walk, but nothing to show for it.
Michael Saunders has been at the heart of the failed chances. With two on and none out in the second, he went down swinging and the inning ended soon after. Then, in the fourth, after a double by Michael Morse, Saunders engaged in a lengthy at-bat — fouling off some two-strike pitches that looked hittable — then got badly fooled on a changeup and grounded out to the pitcher to end the frame.
Felix Hernandez had five strikeouts the first two innings to run his pitch count up to 40. But he had a quick 1-2-3 third frame.
4:03 p.m.: We’ve got a rare late-afternoon start time today, with Felix Hernandez trying to guarantee his Mariners at least a series win by taking two of the first three games of this series. Hernandez is coming off a solid seven-inning effort against the New York Yankees in a no-decision last Sunday.
He’s got a new guy catching him in 41-year-old Henry Blanco. But the pair did work together on Team Venezuela at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Hernandez have to contend with some different names in the A’s lienup than we saw last night.
Yoenis Cespedes is in there today with his 13 home runs. But he’s hitting just .236 overall.
John Jaso is in there batting second and has improved of late after a three-game layoff a couple of weeks back. Since that layoff, Jaso has played nine games and hit .406 with a .955 OPS during that span — which, in turn, has raised his season average from .248 to .280 and his OPS from .663 to .719.
Interestingly, Jaso is now on-pace for only 375 at-bats. Earlier this season, when he was struggling, he was on a 450-at-bat pace. The A’s are about to begin a stretch where they’ll face right-handed starters for about two weeks straight and that should be a huge test for Jaso if indeed he gets the playing time envisioned. Will make for an interesting study and will leave the A’s with some decisions to make going forward if indeed his numbers do drop off with the added playing time.
Derek Norris — said to be the preferred catcher of the A’s pitching staff — has had an awful time against right-handed pitchers, which limits the A’s options behind the plate. In other words, for a first place team, they may face some trying times ahead if they can’t get their catching situation figured out. The Mariners never viewed Jaso as a full-time guy and the A’s are about to discover whether he can actually handle that type of role.
Coco Crisp is leading off and another guy who didn’t play last night.
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