Sometimes, a plan comes together.
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon stacked the top of his lineup Saturday with a switch-hitter and four lefties in hopes of gaining a quick lead against Oakland starter Jesse Chavez.
The Mariners responded by scoring three runs in the first inning and rolled from there to an 8-3 victory over the Athletics behind Felix Hernandez at the O.co Coliseum.
“We sprinted to a lead and held on,” McClendon laughed afterward. “Our guys swung the bats real (well) tonight. Fifi (Hernandez) was pretty sharp for the most part.”
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Logan Morrison and Shawn O’Malley hit homers later in the game as the Mariners stretched their winning streak to four games which — and this says much — matches their best run of the season.
“I think we’re doing a great job of swinging at strikes and letting balls go,” Morrison said. “Letting the starting pitcher get himself in a hole.
“We’re taking advantage of our runners in scoring position. Getting big hits. Moving runners. Hitting homers. We’re driving the ball. We’re not just hitting singles.”
Hernandez (16-8) gave up three runs and six hits over eight innings in his return to rotation after skipping his last turn in an effort to freshen him up for the closing run.
“I worked during those 10 days,” he said. “I threw a bullpen (session). I threw a couple of flat-grounds. I kept my arm in shape. Today, it worked.”
Hernandez’s 16th victory pulled him into a tie with Houston’s Dallas Keuchel for the American League lead. The Mariners, at 65-71, are six games of .500 for the first time since July 11.
Joe Beimel pitched the ninth inning and closed out the victory in his first outing since returning from the disabled list.
About that quick start:
Ketel Marte led off with a walk and went to third on Kyle Seager’s single before scoring on Robinson Cano’s double off the wall in left-center field. Chavez loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Seth Smith.
The Athletics settled for a force at second on Morrison’s grounder, which scored Seager for a 2-0 lead. Chavez struck out Mark Trumbo, but Brad Miller beat out a hopper to deep short for an RBI single.
Seager remains on a tear. He had two more hits Saturday and is 17 for 34 in eight games since getting a one-day break from starting duty. He has eight extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in that span.
“A lot of that has to do with Marte getting on base and putting pressure on the pitcher,” McClendon said. “At times, they make mistakes, and Seager doesn’t miss them.”
Marte reached base six times over the past two games and is batting .280 with a .351 on-base percent in 31 games since arriving July 31 from Triple-A Tacoma.
“I feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel like a 10-year hitter.”
The Mariners extended their lead to 5-0 on Morrison’s two-run homer in the third inning. When Chavez (7-14) then walked Trumbo on four pitches, Oakland began its parade of relievers.
O’Malley opened the fourth inning with a homer to right — a career first and coming in his 22nd big-league at-bat. He sprinted to second before easing up for the rest of his trip around the bases.
“I didn’t get one out all day in (batting practice) the last couple of days,” he said. “So when I hit it, I wasn’t sure. I was thinking three (triple) out of the box. Right before I hit second, I saw the umpire give the signal.”
The lead was 6-0 but Oakland cut the margin in half later in the inning. Mark Canha led off with a homer, but Hernandez retired the next two hitters before finding bigger trouble.
Tumwater resident Stephen Vogt singled on a 1-2 fastball and went to third when Brett Lawrie doubled on an 0-2 sinker. Both runners scored when Billy Butler’s seeing-eye grounder crawled into the center for a single.
“He hit it in the right space," Hernandez said. “Nobody was there.”
That was it for the Athletics, though, and the Mariners answered with one run in the fifth. Smith led off with a double and scored on Trumbo’s one-out single for a 7-3 lead.
Seager’s two-out double in the eighth against R.J. Alvarez produced the game’s final run.
SUNDAY: Mariners (RHP Hisashi Iwakuma: 6-3, 4.22 ERA) at Athletics (LHP Sean Nolin: 0-0, 0.00 ERA), 1:05 p.m., Root Sports, 710-AM, 1030-AM