The Mariners organization had envisioned a soft landing for Mark Lowe ...ming in to a late inning of a blowout game, maybe —...

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The Mariners organization had envisioned a soft landing for Mark Lowe — coming in to a late inning of a blowout game, maybe — that would help the reliever ease his way back from major elbow surgery.

He felt just the opposite.

“I didn’t really want a soft landing,” said Lowe, who made his first big-league appearance in 11 months on Saturday. “Coming into a situation like [I did today], I fell in love with it last year. I had a chance to do it today, and it’s the best way to build confidence on the way back up.”

Manager John McLaren called on Lowe with one out in the top of the eighth inning Saturday. Seattle held a 4-3 lead against Oakland, and the tying run stood on first.

Lowe got Marco Scutaro to fly out to right field, then walked Donnie Murphy before handing the ball to closer J.J. Putz.

“It wasn’t any different than last year; I wasn’t nervous, no butterflies,” said Lowe, who was dominant at times in 2006 in late-inning relief. “I was letting it go. I wasn’t resisting at all. I wasn’t worried about my arm or the way it felt or if it hurt. I just went after guys and felt great.”

McLaren said he thought about pitching Lowe on Friday night with the Mariners comfortably up 7-1. But he decided against it because Lowe had warmed up hard in the bullpen the two previous nights.

“His adrenaline was pumping so much, and he’d gotten so prepared in the bullpen and we didn’t use him that I felt like he needed a day off, just to be safe,” McLaren said.

Asked how he thought Lowe’s arm looked Saturday, McLaren said, “I saw 94 [mph]; that was good enough for me.”

Laughing matters

The Safeco Field crowd got a laugh late in the game when a fan jumped over one of the outfield walls and hugged Ichiro. He even chatted with the center fielder for a while before security noticed and dragged him away.

Ichiro got big laughs in the locker room as he described the encounter.

“First I asked him, ‘Have you been drinking?’ ” Ichiro recalled through an interpreter. “He said, ‘No.’ But I don’t know if he actually was or not. All drunk people say that ‘I’m not drinking.’

“Then after that, I checked if he had anything dangerous. I just kind of glanced. Once I realized that he didn’t, I started thinking what would be the most fun thing for me to do for the fans.

“I really didn’t want to hug him, but once he started hugging me, I thought it would be more fun if I hugged him back.”

One more day

After going 0 for 4, Ichiro will have to wait at least one more day to get his 1,500th hit. He is on pace to become the third-fastest to that milestone since 1900.

Ichiro came closest to a hit in the ninth inning, when he chopped a slow roller to shortstop. But Murphy made a strong throw and just beat out Ichiro at first base.

Late scratch

Oakland right fielder Travis Buck, a Richland High School graduate, was a late scratch with a strained left forearm. The Mariners drafted Buck out of high school in the 23rd round of the 2002 draft. He did not sign and instead attended Arizona State, where he was a two-time all-Pac-10 selection.

Notes

• SS Yuniesky Betancourt, who hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, has a six-game hitting streak.

• 3B Adrian Beltre is tied for the American League lead in July with 26 runs batted in. He has 25 two-out RBI this season.

• Today is “Turn Back the Clock Day” at the ballpark, featuring throwback uniforms for both teams. The Mariners will celebrate their inaugural 1977 season.

Felix Hernandez‘s 120 pitches in the win Friday night were a season high for a Mariners starter. The previous high was 118 by Miguel Batista.

For the record

W-L PCT
56-46 .549

Streak: W2

Home: 33-19

Road: 23-27

vs. AL West: 17-16

vs. L.A.: 2-7

vs. Oakland: 9-3

vs. Texas: 6-6

vs. AL East: 18-10

vs. AL Cent.: 12-11

vs. NL: 9-9

vs. LHP: 20-8

vs. RHP: 36-38

Day: 16-14

Night: 40-32

One-run: 17-16

Extra innings: 3-1

Home attendance

Saturday’s crowd: 41,260

Season total: 1,626,874

Biggest crowd: 46,340 (June 22)

Smallest crowd: 16,555 (May 2)

Average (52 dates): 31,286

2006 average (52 dates): 29,313