Back in the swing of things

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, July 22, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Bret Boone’s psyche needed a lift as badly as his batting average.

Boone, feeling as responsible as any of the Seattle Mariners’ veterans for the team’s offensive slide this year, pressed his way into a .236 batting average by midseason. He vowed to change it in the second half, and Thursday made his biggest impact.

Boone’s two-run homer in the eighth inning broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Mariners a 4-2 victory over the Oakland A’s at Safeco Field.

“When he swings the bat well, we seem to be a little bit of a different club,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Boone is swinging it well now, hitting .314 since the All-Star break, and the Mariners are winning. They’re 5-3 since the break.

The arrival of several young players from Class AAA Tacoma has changed the face of the Mariners and instilled new life in the team, but Boone says the veterans who remain feel a responsibility to finish strong.

“The guys who’ve been here for a while, we’ve got to find something to play for this second half,” he said. “The first thing is pride. We’ve got 2 months to win as many games as we can.”

Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn hit back-to-back singles in the first inning and Edgar Martinez drove them home with a one-out hit that gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Mariners starter Ryan Franklin and Oakland’s Mark Redman kept it a two-run game through five innings, although the A’s put some serious pressure on Franklin in the second.

With two runners already on base, Bobby Kielty blistered a line drive that hit Franklin on his right hip and bounced back toward the plate. Catcher Dan Wilson fielded the ball and made a low, but catchable, throw that first baseman Bucky Jacobsen dropped for an error, loading the bases.

Franklin tested his leg with a few warmup tosses, then got himself out of trouble. He struck out Eric Byrnes looking at strike three and got Adam Melhuse to hit a grounder to second that Boone turned into double play.

Franklin gave up a hit in each of the next three innings but was never threatened. Until the sixth.

Scott Hatteberg led off with a single and Bobby Crosby hit his 14th homer of the season off the stairway above the A’s bullpen in left field to tie the score 2-2.

Franklin finished that inning with no more damage, then yielded to the Mariners’ bullpen.

Rookie left-hander George Sherrill pitched 12/3 scoreless innings, giving him seven straight without an earned run since a rocky big league debut last Friday. He pitched around a one-out walk to Mark McLemore and a single by Eric Chavez by getting Hatteberg to ground into a double play in the seventh, then got two quick outs in the eighth before walking Kielty.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa struck out Eric Byrnes to end that threat.

In the bottom of the eighth, Winn reached on a one-out error by Crosby and Boone got ahead of Redman two balls and a strike, then waited for a changeup that had given him trouble most of the night.

He got that pitch, didn’t lunge at it like before, and drove it into the seats in right-center field for his 14th homer this season.

Boone has three home runs and nine RBI in the eight games since the All-Star break, coming up with productive swings that he couldn’t in a maddening first half.

“I can live with it when I’m having a tough time and we’re winning games,” he said. “But when I’m going through tough times being one of the main guys in the lineup and we’re losing, that’s double tough to take.”

Closer Eddie Guardado gave up a leadoff single to Damian Miller in the ninth, then retired Mark Kotsay, McLemore and Eric Chavez on fly outs to get his 18th save.

“We pitched very well today, we played defense and had timely hitting,” Melvin said. “That’s a lot of what you saw last year when we were playing well.”

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