Quite the juxtaposition of heroes tonight: 41-year-old Raul Ibanez with a game-tying three-run homer in the seventh, and 22-year-old rookie Nick Franklin with a clutch two-run single in the eighth that clinched the 7-5 victory. I’d have to say it was the best win of the year for the Mariners, who were staring at their fourth straight loss, and sixth out of seven. If there has been a better one, it’s slipped my mind.
It was a triumph fueled by the team’s most grizzled – and respected – veteran in Ibanez, and the rookie who has earned his growing admiration.
“Just more proof,’’ Ibanez said of Franklin’s big one-out hit. “He has a great approach at the plate, and he doesn’t try to do too much. He has a really good eye. He’s a very disciplined hitter.”
And one who is already showing that he embraces the big moment.
“I think you’re a better baseball player when you play with no fear, and we’ve seen that from him so far,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Franklin, in turn, marveled at Ibanez’s clutch hit that sent the comeback into motion.
“Right when he came up, you get one of those feelings, and when he does it, you say, ‘How does he do it?’ You’re not even excited. You just shake your head, like, wow. It’s one of those ecstatic things you look up to.”
Summed up Ibanez on the much-needed victory: “It’s huge, to come back against a great team like Oakland. It was a resilient win. We stayed after them and pulled together.”
Yoervis Medina, who had entered the game in the seventh and promptly gave up two run-scoring singles, finished off the A’s in the ninth for his second victory. He gave up a leadoff single to Jed Lowrie but induced a double-play grounder from dangerous Yoenis Cespedes, well-turned by Kyle Seager and Franklin.
On a beautiful summer night, that portion of the crowd of 20,704 rooting for the Mariners initially had little to make them happy besides Franklin Gutierrez’s second-inning homer and a lovely sunset behind Safeco Field.
That changed in the seventh, however, after Oakland had scored two in the top of the inning to take 5-2 lead. Kyle Seager led off with a single against left-hander Jerry Blevins, and Kendrys Morales drew a walk.
That brought up Ibanez, not quite three weeks past his 41st birthday. On an 0-1 pitch, the left-handed hitter unloaded against Blevins, sending it over the wall in right for a game-tying three-run homer, his team-leading 15th. Though hitting just .180 against lefties, Ibanez has now hit five homers in 51 at-bats against southpaws.
“That’s why you like him up there against right-handers or left-handers,’’ Wedge said. “He might not have the best average against lefties, but he does damage, and he does damage at the right time. You’ve seen that happen multiple times this year. It was a huge lift for us.”
Brendan Ryan led off the eighth by lining a single off Oakland reliever Ryan Cook. With Endy Chavez squared to bunt, Cook unleashed a wild pitch that moved Ryan to second. Chavez then did drop down a bunt – so well that instead of a sacrifice, he beat it out for a single.
The A’s let Chavez advance to second – ruled defensive indifference rather than a steal, though I’m not so sure that ruling shouldn’t be changed. And Franklin made them pay on the very next pitch, dropping a soft liner into left-center to bring both runners home. Franklin finished the game with three hits and three runs batted in.
“I think it’s most important, when those situations do arise, to stay relaxed,’’ Franklin said. “Don’t try to put pressure on yourself, and don’t try to force things to happen. Just let things happen.”
Franklin admitted it’s easier said than done.
“Your adrenaline starts going a little bit, I’m not going to lie. You have to take a few deep breaths and relax from the get go, know everything is going to be all right, don’t worry about the outcome.”