SEATTLE (AP)—During the fifth and sixth pitches, Jose Lopez was just trying to keep the at-bat alive.
By the time Oakland’s Russ Springer finally served up his 14th pitch, Seattle’s second baseman simply wanted the game over.
“I got real nervous. I didn’t want to strike out. Everybody is waiting for me to get an RBI, a walk, whatever,” Lopez said. “After a couple of fouls I say, ‘All right, it’s my time.”’
Lopez fought off nine consecutive two-strike pitches before hitting a game-ending RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning as Seattle rallied from an early deficit for an 8-7 win over Oakland on Friday night.
On the 14th pitch from Springer (0-1), Lopez lined a fastball into right-center field, bringing home Endy Chavez and setting off a wild celebration with teammates near second base. Felix Hernandez put a bear hug on Lopez while the rest of his teammates pounded on his helmet.
It was Lopez’s fourth career game-winning hit and improved Seattle to 8-2 against the American League West this season.
“You feel good when a guy tends to see that many pitches, and battled and then to be able to go to right-center and stay with that pitch was outstanding,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “That was quite a way to win that ballgame.”
Seattle started its ninth-inning rally on Chavez’s single with one-out, the Mariners first baserunner since the fifth inning. Mike Sweeney walked on a 3-2 pitch and after Adrian Beltre hit a fly to advance Chavez to third, Russell Branyan was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Springer fell behind 2-0 on Lopez, but bounced back with a pair of strikes. Then Lopez started fouling off everything Springer offered, both fastballs and off-speed pitches. Finally, Lopez got the best of the Oakland reliever, dumping the line drive in front of Oakland right fielder Travis Buck.
“I wanted him to put the ball in play because at that point I was just about out of bullets,” Springer said.
Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez both hit two-run homers for Seattle in the fifth inning as the Mariners came back from an early 6-1 deficit. Gutierrez’s homer gave Seattle a 7-6 lead, but Oakland reliever Ted Giese retired 10 straight batters to keep the A’s close.
Shawn Kelley picked up his first victory getting out of a jam in the eighth and throwing a perfect ninth. Kelley (1-1) entered with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, but got consecutive fly outs to end the A’s threat. He then pitched a perfect ninth, including back-to-back strikeouts of Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday, both looking.
Kelley was battered in his last outing, giving up two homers and picking up the loss on Wednesday against the White Sox.
“(Kelley) really showed a bounce back from the other day, it was nice to see him in that situation,” Wakamatsu said.
Holliday hit a solo homer into the second deck in left field in the seventh to draw Oakland even at 7-all. It was just the second homer of the season for the slugger who came over in a trade from Colorado in the offseason.
Oakland appeared to have this one in hand early, thanks to a six-run third inning off Seattle starter Carlos Silva. The A’s biggest offensive output in a single inning this season was bolstered by three walks from Silva, a two-run double from Kurt Suzuki and a bases-loaded triple by Bobby Crosby to take a 6-1 lead. All six runs scored after there were two outs.
“It’s disappointing,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “With the way we pitched, we should have won.”
But Seattle responded with a pair in the bottom of the third inning on Lopez’s two-run single. Then in the fifth, Branyan jolted his fifth homer, and Gutierrez hooked a 1-2 pitch inside the left-field pole for his second homer with Seattle.
Seattle is now 7-1 in the first game of a series this season, and has won seven straight over Oakland. … Seattle and Oakland will wear uniforms from the 1939 Pacific Coast League Seattle Rainiers and Oakland Oaks on Saturday.