OAKLAND, Calif. – Nick Franklin was sporting a satisfied grin to go with the five stitches freshly woven into his left knee.
Franklin had finally crushed a changeup early Tuesday night to help keep the Mariners close in what turned into an improbable 7-4 win over the Oakland Athletics. Then, in a five-run eighth inning by Seattle off a porous A’s bullpen, he brought the tying run home on a single and later scored an insurance marker with a foot-first slide into home plate on an infield grounder.
That’s when Franklin’s left trail leg was spiked near the knee by catcher Derek Norris. Franklin could miss four or five days, but given how his team won for just the third time in 53 tries when trailing after seven innings, his mood was as upbeat as the players around him.
“We were just locked in and trying to make them make the pitches,’’ Franklin said of A’s relief pitchers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook that eighth inning. “We were trying to execute as best as we could and that’s what happened.’’
Doolittle and Cook threw a combined 43 pitches before recording a single out that inning. An announced crowd of 13,041 at the Coliseum looked on stunned as the first seven Mariners reached base, tying the game on a Henry Blanco double dropped by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and then the ensuing Franklin single.
Two wild pitches by Cook brought the go-ahead run and an insurance marker home while Franklin scored on a Kendrys Morales grounder that second baseman Alberto Callaspo opted to come home on.
Brandon Maurer, who’d tossed a scoreless seventh inning in relief of Joe Saunders, picked up the win. Danny Farquhar closed out the ninth for his eighth save.
Up until that inning, the Mariners had been held to just two hits by A’s rookie sensation Sonny Gray, a former first-round pick from 2011 in just his third major-league start. Before Gray left the contest, the Mariners seemed doomed by a four-run first-inning blitzing the A’s put on Saunders, tagging him for home runs by Josh Donaldson and Nate Freiman and a triple by Jed Lowrie.
But Saunders survived, despite throwing a season-high 40 pitches in the one inning. Saunders said he really didn’t feel his pitches were missing by much and was confident he could hold things from there.
“The defense was really good behind me. They turned some big double plays,’’ he said. “And we got some big clutch hits.’’
The biggest was a two-run homer by Franklin in the third inning on a high changeup by Gray to cut the Oakland lead in half. It was the first long ball in over three weeks by Franklin, victimized often of late by an increasing amount of changeups and breaking balls.
“I wasn’t really expecting anything. I was just trying to go back with my same approach,’’ Franklin said. “I really worked hard on it today in BP and everything.’’
Franklin saw several pitches in an earlier at-bat and it helped him recognize the changeup more quickly.
“It’s been a grind,’’ he said.