A's sunk by one swing from the 'Ancient Mariner'

A's sunk by one swing from the 'Ancient Mariner'
June 15, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Henry Blanco (left) hit his second career grand slam on Saturday night at and his first since May 12, 2000. (USA TODAY IMAGES)


OAKLAND -- The pitch? It was not a mistake. Far from it. It was exactly where John Jaso called for it to be delivered. And where A.J. Griffin obliged.

Up, and in.

With one out and the bases loaded, the A's wanted to induce an inning-ending double play out of 41-year-old Henry Blanco.

Instead, the newest Seattle Mariner turned on Griffin's first offering to him, an 88-mph fastball, and sent it down the left-field line. It wrapped just inside the foul pole for a game-turning grand slam, the second of Blanco's career and his first since May 12, 2000, or when Griffin was 12 years old.

[REPLAY: Mariners 4, Athletics 0]

"I was looking for weak contact and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball, and he hit it," Griffin said with a shrug. "You've got to just tip your cap to him…I'm sick of saying that.

"Four runs on one pitch. When you're facing a guy like Felix (Hernandez), every run counts. It's tough to handle, tough to accept."

With the 4-0 defeat to Seattle, the A's lost a series for the first time since May 13-15 (to Texas) and Griffin has a losing record (5-6) for the first time this season.

But it was not simply about the sixth-inning grand slam. It was about how the bases were loaded in the first place.

Kendrys Morales led off with a single, then Griffin got Raul Ibanez to pop out to short before Michael Morse drove a liner into the right-center gap that just eluded the outstretched glove of a diving Coco Crisp to go for a double and put runners at second and third.

Then, the bizarre.

After a foul tip for strike one, a baseball cap came flying onto the field from the stands in right, delaying play, and a fight ensued in the right-field bleachers. If Griffin was distracted, he did not say. But he could not find the strike zone in his next few pitches and ended up intentionally walking Michael Saunders to load the bases and set up the potential double play.

Blanco, though, was not going to let Griffin get settled. He swung at the first pitch he saw.

"That was a perfect pitch to hit a grand slam," Blanco told reporters. "I was looking for the fastball and when i got it, I put a pretty good swing on it. I was hoping to stay fair and it did."

Blanco's previous slam came for Milwaukee, against Pittsburgh's Jason Schmidt, a gap of 13 years and 34 days.

"He had a chance to get out of it," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Griffin. "I thought he threw the ball well most of the game.

"He threw the ball well, and Blanco turned on it."

Blanco was cut by Toronto on Monday, signed with Seattle on Friday, and joined the team in Oakland in time to make his Mariners debut by catching Felix Hernandez and authoring the fifth-longest gap between grand slams in big league history, per Elias.

"I don't know," Jaso said, shaking his head. "It's just one of those things that worked out for Blanco. I'd pitch him the same exact way."

Here's the thing about wily, grizzled veterans, though…they are wily and grizzled for a reason. Blanco made his big league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 25, 1997, or, when Griffin was nine years old, and Jaso was 13.

"He just got that one," said Griffin, who is riding a career-high three-game losing streak. "To throw 5 1/3 scoreless and then (give up) the grand slam? It's really frustrating. Hopefully we're not talking about something like this the next time."