ARLINGTON, Texas — Corey Hart isn’t sure what the future holds but, after two injury-filled years, he just wants to enjoy the ride as the Mariners try to reach postseason for the first time in years.
“I told Skip (manager Lloyd McClendon) that whenever he feels I need to get in there,” Hart said, “I’m in there. I just want to be productive when I get up there. Have good at-bats.
“Hopefully, I get up in situations where I can come through.”
That happened Wednesday when Hart, in his first big-league game since Aug. 1, delivered a tie-breaking homer that lifted the Mariners to a 2-1 victory at Oakland.
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Hart’s homer, a no-doubt drive to left against A’s ace Jon Lester, came immediately after Kyle Seager opened the seventh inning with a game-trying homer to right.
“Seager has been a stud all year,” Hart said. “Once he tied it up for us, I was just trying to make contact and get something going for the rest of the guys. I was able to get the ball in the air.”
It was just the sort of power the Mariners envisioned Hart supplying when they took a $6 million risk last December in signing him to a one-year deal that included numerous performance bonuses.
Hart, 32, was a nine-year veteran with proven pop but represents a big free-agent risk because he had missed all of 2013 at Milwaukee because of two major knee surgeries.
Early on, McClendon spoke of Hart playing 145-150 games by shifting between right field, first base and designated hitter.
That hasn’t happened.
When Hart started Thursday as the designated hitter at Texas, it was just his 60th game of the season.
A strained hamstring and a bruised knee forced him to spend two extended tours in the disabled list. He just rejoined the Mariners on Monday after a nine-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma.
“My legs were a little weak for most of the season,” Hart admitted. “I was trying to get strong there. I was able to work out with our guys in Seattle, and their guys (in Tacoma).
“Just working more on strength than anything. Then to apply it when I get up there to swing.”
That happened Wednesday against Lester.
“Corey has a track record,” McClendon said. “Corey is an All-Star player. He’s battled a lot of injuries this year. But he’s come back pretty good. He’s healthy. He swung the bat well down at Triple-A.
“Corey Hart can be an x-factor for us, particularly against left-handed pitchers.”
YOUNG STAYS IN
Veteran right-hander Chris Young will remain in the rotation for at least one more cycle. McClendon confirmed Young will start Saturday against the Rangers.
Young is coming off two poor starts that suggested he might be showing fatigue from a workload that already exceeds what he’s done in every year since 2007.
McClendon made the decision after observing Young’s between-starts bullpen workout Wednesday in Oakland.
“The ball came out good,” McClendon said. “He’s healthy. We had a conversation today, and he’s ready to go. It was a combination of what I saw and what we talked about.”
It’s likely Young will be on a short leash after allowing eight runs and 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings over his last two starts. He is 12-7 overall with a 3.46 ERA In 27 games.
The Mariners entered the four-game series in a 9-6 deficit against the Rangers. The Mariners haven’t won the season series since going 11-8 in 2007…Third baseman Kyle Seager, with 22 homers and 85 RBIs, is on pace to be the first Mariners player to reach 25 and 100 since 2006. Two players did it that year: Raul Ibanez (33 and 123) and Richie Sexson (34 and 107)…The Mariners entered the series with a 39-27 road record for a .591 winning percentage that ranks as the best in the American League.
It was 31 years ago Friday — Sept. 5, 1983 — that a 22-year-old second baseman named Harold Reynolds made his first major-league start in a 13-6 victory at Kansas City.
Reynolds went 2-for-5 with a double and a triple and scored twice. His first major-league hit was a double in the fourth inning against Royals lefty Larry Gura.
It was three days earlier that Reynolds made his major-league debut as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees at the Kingdome. He didn’t play again until his starting assignment in Kansas City.
Reynolds spent the first 10 seasons of his 12-year career with the Mariners. He played one year each for Baltimore and California before retiring at the 1994 season.
The Mariners and Rangers continue their four-game weekend series at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (13-6 with a 2.90 ERA) will oppose Texas right-hander Scott Baker (3-3, 5.23). Root Sports will televise the game.
Baker spent spring training with the Mariners before opting for free agency rather than accept a late-March assignment to the minor leagues. He signed with the Rangers shortly thereafter.
The series continues at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time Saturday before concluding at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time Sunday.