OAKLAND, Calif. — Henry Blanco hit a sixth-inning grand slam in his Seattle debut to break a scoreless tie, Felix Hernandez pitched seven strong innings to win his third straight decision, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 4-0 on Saturday.
The 41-year-old Blanco, a .184 hitter with no home runs coming into the game, was an unlikely candidate to deliver the decisive hit for Seattle. The Mariners signed him Friday, three days after his release by Toronto. He became the oldest Mariners player with a slam.
Hernandez (8-4) struck out five of Oakland’s initial eight batters and seven through four innings on the way to eight Ks.
Michael Morse had two doubles among his three hits, including one in the sixth before Blanco’s drive stayed just inside the left-field foul pole.
Blanco’s only other grand slam came with Milwaukee more than 13 years ago — on May 12, 2000, off Pittsburgh’s Jason Schmidt. It was the fifth-longest gap between grand slams dating back to 1900, according to information provided by the Mariners from the Elias Sports Bureau — 13 years, 34 days.
Blanco’s slam at 41 — he turns 42 on Aug. 29 — topped one by Raul Ibanez earlier this season accomplished at 40 years, 347 days.
King Felix received a big defensive assist to end the fifth and save a run.
Jed Lowrie doubled leading off the inning and advanced on Seth Smith’s flyout to center. But Chris Young flied into a double play in which right fielder Endy Chavez threw Lowrie out at home to keep the game scoreless. Lowrie didn’t even touch the plate.
And, with Coco Crisp aboard on a one-out single in the sixth, Hernandez got John Jaso — who caught his perfect game with Seattle last year — to line into a double play at first that caught Crisp off the bag. The A’s also grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh with runners on first and second.
Suddenly, Seattle has a chance to sweep the first-place A’s on Sunday after Oakland took three in a row from the New York Yankees before this series began, including a 3-2, 18-inning victory Thursday.
Seattle snapped Oakland’s 11-game home winning streak at the Coliseum on Friday night, then put together another fine performance to back its ace. The A’s have lost their first series in the last 10 over the last month.
Hernandez allowed five hits and walked one to improve to 22-7 with a 2.70 ERA lifetime in 39 career starts in June. Seattle starters are 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA — 6 earned runs in 57 1/3 innings — since June 7 and have gone six straight starts of at least seven innings.
Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina each pitched an inning of relief to finish the Mariners’ six-hit shutout.
Oakland’s A.J. Griffin (5-6) dropped to 0-3 over his four-start winless stretch. The right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings, struck out three and walked two.
Crisp returned to the Oakland lineup playing center field and batting leadoff in his first start since bruising his heel Tuesday night against New York. He didn’t move as well as usual.
Young earned a second straight start for the A’s a day after going 3 for 3 with an RBI and walk — but he had never faced Hernandez previously and went 0 for 3 with a strikeout.
A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson was back in there after missing Friday’s game because of a strained right hamstring. He came out of Thursday’s 18-inning win against the Yankees after the 15th.
• Mariners starting pitchers have had eight consecutive quality starts.
• Mariners manager Eric Wedge said 1B Justin Smoak (strained right oblique), CF Franklin Gutierrez (strained right hamstring) and demoted 2B Dustin Ackley would likely be re-evaluated after Sunday’s game to determine the next step for each. “It’s a combination of how they’re doing and how they feel,” Wedge said.
• The series finale Sunday has the looks of a possible pitcher’s duel with Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (8-2) and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (7-1).
• In 2001, Edgar Martinez hit a grand slam at 38 years, 220 days — the previous-oldest Seattle player before Ibanez and Blanco this season.