As far as omens go, Franklin Gutierrez hitting a home run in his first at-bat after coming off the 60-day disabled list is a promising one.
And, sure enough, it set into motion one of the most exhilarating games of the season for the Mariners as they pulled out a 7-5 victory over the A’s.
Down by three runs in the seventh and staring at their fourth straight loss, they tied it on Raul Ibanez’s three-run homer, then stormed into the lead on a two-run single by Nick Franklin in the eighth.
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.
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“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 Nick 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,’’ he said, “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.”
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, the portion of the crowd of 20,704 rooting for the Mariners initially had little to make them happy besides Gutierrez’s 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. 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.”
Gutierrez followed with a double but was stranded at third base.
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 dropped 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. And Franklin made them pay on the very next pitch, dropping a soft liner into left-center to bring both runners home.
“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,’’ he said. “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.”
In his first plate appearance since April 22 against the Astros, in the second inning, Gutierrez had battled his way to a full count against Oakland starter Dan Straily. And on Straily’s ninth pitch, Gutierrez sent a towering drive to right center that drifted over the wall.
“Good for him to get started like that,’’ Wedge said. “We’re a different team with him in the lineup.”