OAKLAND, Calif. — Say this for Dae-Ho Lee. The 33-year-old rookie from Korea has a sense for the dramatic.
Lee clubbed two homers Wednesday afternoon that rescued the Mariners from a disastrous outing — actually one disastrous inning — by Felix Hernandez in a 9-8 victory over Oakland.
"I’m just ready for whatever situation I get," said Lee, who started for the first time since April 27. "I just want to be ready whenever they call on me."
This was answering the call.
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Both of Lee’s homers came after Hernandez gave up six runs in the fifth inning in part because he made two costly fielding mistakes.
"It wasn’t a normal Felix today," manager Scott Servais said. "He wasn’t on top of his game like he can be. I thought when we put the four-spot up there (in the top of the fifth) it would kind of energize him."
Lee’s first homer was a solo shot to right-center field in the sixth inning against Ryan Dull. His second was a two-run drive to left field with two outs in the seventh against John Axford.
Servais chose to stick with Lee — a hunch — instead of using Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter, against Axford, a right-hander who entered the day with a 0.73 ERA in 11 appearances.
This is how things are going right now for the Mariners. Lee launched the ball to left.
"I made good contact (against Axford)," he said. "I hit it in the middle. I knew it was gone.
And the Mariners, who trailed by four runs entering the sixth, suddenly had a 9-8 lead, which the bullpen protected over the final three innings for a remarkable comeback victory that completed a three-game sweep.
While Lee fueled the comeback, the day’s most-impressive homer belonged to Nelson Cruz, who capped a four-run burst in the fifth inning with a 435-foot drive to center that reached the upper deck above suite level.
"It’s just another homer," Cruz initially deadpanned. "It was the highlight for the season, but what was nice is the victory. I was a great win.
Hernandez carried a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the inning and appeared poised to become the franchise’s all-time leader in victories before he imploded in a self-made mess.
After singles by Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien put runners on first and second, Hernandez fielded Billy Burns’ attempted sacrifice bunt, looked to third and waited too long to throw to first.
The result was a bunt single that loaded the bases.
"I should have thrown to third on that bunt," Hernandez said. "Then, I threw to first. He’s fast. A fast runner. After that, I don’t know what happened…"
Jed Lowrie’s single to left produced one run. Josh Reddick followed with a nubber that Hernandez fielded and fumbled for an error that permitted the tying run to score and kept the bases loaded with no outs.
"That ground ball," Hernandez said, "I should have made that play. I don’t know. It was weird. I was (ticked) off. I should have made that play."
It got worse.
Khris Davis’ potential double-play grounder to third skipped through Kyle Seager for an error. Two more runs scored. Oakland led 6-4 and still had nobody out.
That finished Hernandez. In came Vidal Nuno, who permitted two inherited runners to score before ending the inning. All six runs in the inning were charged to Hernandez.
While only two were earned, all were deserved.
The Mariners began clawing back with two runs in the sixth inning against Dull on Lee’s first homer and Ketel Marte’s RBI double. They closed to 8-7 on Seager’s RBI single in the seventh before Lee’s second homer.
"He hasn’t played a lot," Servais said. "But when he has, he’s found a way to contribute."
Lee had a walk-off homer earlier this year on April 13 in a 4-2 victory over Texas, which ended a five-game skid. The Mariners are 14-5 since that point.
After Lee’s second homer, the only question was whether the Mariners’ bullpen could close it out. Mike Montgomery (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings before Joel Peralta worked a one-two-three eighth.
The Mariners squandered a chance to boost their lead in the ninth by failing to score after loading the bases with no outs, but it didn’t matter. Steve Cishek worked around a one-out walk for his eighth save.
"Those are the kind of wins that stick with you for a while," Servais said. "The guys believed the whole time. When we got down, there was never any doubt that we were going to figure out a way to get back in it."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Nelson Cruz capped a four-run fifth inning by hitting a mammoth two-run homer against Oakland rookie Sean Manaea. The ball cleared the suite level in dead center field.
PLUS: Ketel Marte had a pair of doubles and another dynamic defensive play when he sprinted hard to his left in the ninth inning to field a grounder and retire Billy Burns for the first out. "I don’t know how I made that play," Marte said. "That guy is fast."…Nelson Cruz had two singles in addition to his tape-measure homer. He leads the club with 10 multi-hit games…Leonys Martin executed two bunts, one for a sacrifice and one for a single.
MINUS: Felix Hernandez’s two fielding misplays fueled Oakland’s six-run fifth inning…third baseman Kyle Seager struck out in three at-bats against Athletics starter Sean Manaea and committed a costly error…Nori Aoki had two key non-productive at-bats. He hit a one-hopper to second base against a drawn-in infield for an easy out with runners at second and third with one out in the third inning. He also grounded into a fielder’s-choice out at the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth.
STAT PACK: The Mariners had a season-high 16 hits. Their previous high was 14 on two occasions…the Mariners have won eight straight one-run games at the Oakland Coliseum…Hernandez’s four-inning outing matched the shortest of his 42 career starts against Oakland. He also went four innings on May 6, 2006.
QUOTABLE: Manager Scott Servais called first baseman Dae-Ho Lee a "rock star" after their dinner engagement Sunday night at a Korean restaurant in San Francisco.
Asked for his spin on Servais’ comment, Lee said: "It just meant I was very recognized in Korea and the Japanese league. But here, I’m just a rookie."
SHORT HOPS: The bullpen combined for five scoreless innings and lowered its ERA to 2.31…the Mariners recorded their first series sweep of the season after missing earlier opportunities at New York and at home against Houston and Kansas City…Aoki went 1-for-5 and has hits in all 15 of his career games against the Athletics. He is batting.328 at 20-for-61…Marte was 2-for-6 and has reached base safely in all 15 of his career games against Oakland. He is batting .367 at 22-for-60.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners