OAKLAND, Calif. — It was an important game, a possible playoff preview.
But when the Mariners’ lineup was released on Wednesday morning, there was a double-take at first.
Manager Lloyd McClendon rolled out a right-handed heavy lineup with Dustin Ackley and Logan Morrison on the bench, Kendrys Morales at first base, Chris Denorfia and Stefen Romero in the outfield, and Corey Hart at designated hitter.
It was the 122nd lineup McClendon has used this season, and it left some fans scratching their heads, particularly about Hart at DH. The veteran hitter has been hobbled by injuries much of the season, making two trips to the disabled list for a hamstring strain and a knee contusion and missing a total of 68 games. He hadn’t played in a major-league game since Aug. 1, when he went on the DL, and had only been playing rehab games in Class AAA Tacoma the past few weeks.
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So why did he get the start?
“He’s healthy,” McClendon said before the game. “He swung the bat well down in Triple-A. Corey Hart can be an X factor against left-handed pitching.”
Hart made McClendon’s decision pay off. Moments after Kyle Seager tied the score at 1-1 with a solo homer to right field off Jon Lester in the seventh, Hart followed with a solo homer to left on a 1-0 fastball. It was Hart’s first home run since May 5.
“Corey has a track record,” McClendon said. “He’s been an all-star player.”
Hart knows it’s been a lost season with injuries, and he knows he isn’t going to be playing every day.
“It’s just nice to be back and feeling good,” he said. “I got in there. I don’t know what’s in store for me for the rest of the month. But I told Skip that whatever he throws at me and if he needs me to be there, then I’m in there.”
• McClendon, pitching coach Rick Waits and the rest of the coaching staff all monitored Chris Young’s bullpen session before Wednesday’s game. They were watching very closely to see if Young is healthy and if they think he can give them a chance to win on Saturday in Texas. Young struggled in his outing on Monday, making it just two-thirds of an inning and giving up five runs on four hits with two walks.
“He had a good bullpen,” McClendon said. “I will talk to Jack (Zduriencik) today and we’ll have a decision tomorrow. I just wanted to make sure he was healthy. He was hitting his spots. Everything was good.”
• With his outing on Wednesday, Felix Hernandez became the first pitcher in team history to pitch more than 200 innings and total more than 200 strikeouts in six seasons. The previous record was five by Randy Johnson.