OAKLAND, Calif. -- Catcher Henry Blanco made a grand entrance Saturday with the Seattle Mariners
, his 11th major-league team.
One day after signing, the 41-year-old Blanco hit his second career grand slam in his Mariners debut, lifting Seattle to a 4-0 victory over the Oakland A's at the O.co Coliseum.
Blanco's sixth-inning slam off A's starter A.J. Griffin
provided more than enough offense for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who pitched seven shutout innings, improving to 8-4. He struck out eight and walked one before turning the game over to the bullpen.
"You always want to make a good impression the first time out," said Blanco, who became the oldest Mariner in team history to hit a grand slam, taking the record away from Raul Ibanez. "I didn't (expect) to make it that way, but it happened so I feel pretty good about it."
Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales led off the sixth with a sharp single to right and moved to third on a one-out double to right-center field by Michael Morse, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles. After Griffin threw three straight balls and fell behind Michael Saunders 3-1, A's manager Bob Melvin ordered an intentional walk, loading the bases.
Blanco, who came into the game hitting .184 and was 0-for-2 to that point against Griffin, wasted no time. He launched Griffin's first pitch -- an 88 mph fastball -- high and deep down the left-field line and into the seats, giving Seattle a 4-0 lead.
"That was a perfect pitch to hit a grand slam," Blanco said. "I was looking for the fastball and when I got it, I put a pretty good swing on it. I was hoping (it would) stay fair and it did."
Hernandez admitted he was surprised by Blanco's heroics.
"For him to come through like that is awesome, his first start here," Hernandez said of his fellow Venezuelan. "That was unbelievable."
Griffin said he hit former Mariners catcher John Jaso's glove, high and inside.
"I was just trying for weak contact, and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball, and he hit it," Griffin said. "I watched the video and the pitch went right where Jaso set up. Up and in. And the end of the day it's four runs on one pitch, and when you're facing Felix every run counts."
Blanco hit his first grand slam as a Milwaukee Brewer on May 12, 2000, off Pittsburgh's Jason Schmidt
. Thirteen seasons later, he cleared the bases again. His second slam came one day after Mariners rookie catcher Mike Zunino hit his first major-league home run.
"That was a long time ago," Blanco said, smiling. "I remember it was against Jason Schmidt. I got a fastball to hit and I hit it out. Obviously the same thing happened today."
Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush pitched a scoreless eighth but gave way to Yoervis Medina after allowing a leadoff single to Coco Crisp in the ninth. Medina walked pinch-hitter Derek Norris but then retired the next three A's in order, ending the game.
Griffin lost his third straight decision and fell to 5-6. He allowed four runs and eight hits, striking out three and walking two. Coming into the game, he had been 3-0 against the Mariners and 7-0 against the American League West.
The Mariners beat the A's for the second straight time and will go for the series sweep Sunday. The A's haven't been swept at home this season, but they'll face Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 7-1 with a 1.79 ERA.
It came as no surprise that Hernandez had his way with the A's.
Hernandez entered the game with a 14-6 record and 2.70 ERA against the A's. One of those wins came on Opening Day this season at the Coliseum when he blanked the A's for 7 2/3 innings on three hits in Seattle's 2-0 victory.
"At the beginning of the game I was a little wild, I was struggling with my command," Hernandez said. "After that, it was way better."
The A's threatened to score in the first when Jaso walked with one out and moved to second on Brandon Moss' line-drive single to right. But Hernandez struck out third baseman Josh Donaldson with a 94 mph fastball.
Then in the fifth, Hernandez got a great defensive play from right fielder Endy Chavez to keep the A's off the scoreboard.
Jed Lowrie led off with a double then tagged and went to third on Seth Smith's flyout to deep center. When Chris Young flied out to right, Lowrie tagged up and headed home, but Chavez threw a one-hop strike to Blanco, who made a diving tag for the third out.
"I called him out; I called the guy out," Hernandez said. "That was exciting. Endy made a great throw. I think that was the difference in the game."
Melvin said sending Lowrie was the right decision, regardless of the outcome.
"You have to take a chance there with Felix. That was our only chance to score a run right there, so absolutely," Melvin said.
NOTES: Zunino will return to the starting lineup Sunday, Wedge said. ... A's RF Josh Reddick got a rare day off against a right-handed pitcher. Young, who went 3-for-3 with a home run and double on Friday night, started in right. "Any time you have a night like that, it's nice to be rewarded with another game," Melvin said. ... After missing three straight starts with a bruised right heel, Crisp returned to the lineup. ... Donaldson (strained right hamstring) returned to the lineup after missing one game. ... Wedge said 1B Justin Smoak (strained right oblique) could be activated from the disabled list during the Mariners' next series, which begins Monday against the Angels at Anaheim. He's on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma.
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