SEATTLE — A surprise appearance in the clubhouse before the game by manager Eric Wedge gave the Mariners a boost, and then Nick Franklin took it from there.
The dynamic rookie hit a pair of home runs and drove in four as the Mariners defeated the Minnesota Twins, 6-4, at Safeco Field on Sunday.
“It was awesome,” Franklin said of the team’s pregame meeting with Wedge, who had been away from the ballpark since suffering a mild stroke last Monday.
“He looked strong. He looked like he was ready to go. I thought he was ready for the game today. A lot of guys were happy to see him. He gave us a little pep talk, which always helps.”
Wedge departed the ballpark after meeting with the team for 10 minutes or so in the morning. But the spark carried over as the Mariners’ offense returned following two tepid losses to the Twins.
The M’s entered the game having scored just three runs in their last 28 innings. Minnesota rookie Kyle Gibson blanked them for the first two innings as the Twins built a 2-0 lead against Erasmo Ramirez.
But that drought ended when the Mariners pushed across a run in the third on singles by Brad Miller and Franklin, and a sacrifice fly by Kyle Seager.
Michael Saunders tied it in the fourth with a second-level home run, but Franklin struck the big blow later in the inning, a three-run shot off Gibson that gave the Mariners the lead to stay.
Franklin added a solo in the seventh, and has now thrust himself squarely into the Rookie of the Year mix. He leads all American League rookies with 10 homers and 32 runs batted in, despite not making his major league debut until May 27.
With the Mariners, Franklin’s .492 slugging percentage trails only the .535 of Raul Ibanez, which brings the question of how such a slight frame generates so much power.
“Bat speed,” said acting manager Robby Thompson. “He hits through the ball, he backspins balls, and that’s where he gets his carry. He’s small, but he’s a strong kid.”
While Franklin was getting three hits from the No. 2 spot in the order, leadoff man and fellow rookie Miller reached base three times with two singles and a walk. As the capper, Miller and Franklin teamed on a beautiful double play in the ninth to stem a potential Twins rally against closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who racked up his 24th save.
“They’ve sparked us up the middle defensively, they’ve sparked us at the top of the order,” Thompson said of Franklin and Miller. “It’s not often you see a couple of guys come up from Triple-A and go one-two in the order in a short period of time. Obviously, they’re both deserving of that, and they’ve done a great job for us.”
Miller said he and Franklin “are each other’s biggest fans. I think we’re having fun. That’s the No. 1 thing. We’re both excited to be here, and that’s our style of play, and our personalities. We want to get out there and compete and get things going. I know we feed off each other.”
Added Franklin, “We both have energy. We both have the fire. He’s excited, he’s pumped, just as anyone else on the team. It’s good. We communicate well.”
Ramirez got his second straight win despite giving up four runs in six shaky innings. The M’s got a big boost from reliever Danny Farquhar, who struck out five in two scoreless innings. Another key was a huge defensive play from right fielder Endy Chavez, who robbed Chris Colabello of a potential three-run homer with a leaping catch in the third.
Chavez’s catch was a do-over of a nearly identical effort in the second, but that time Ryan Doumit’s drive popped out of his glove for a double. Colabello followed with a two-run homer.
“I had it,” Chavez said of the Doumit ball. “I think it wasn’t farther than the second one, but the problem was I hit the fence first, and I lost the ball. I didn’t see it anymore. It hit my glove, but it wasn’t at the right point. I just had to make my adjustment from the first one, and time the ball to make the jump and the catch.”
It was reminiscent of Chavez’s signature catch in the 2006 National League Championship Series.
“It brought back old memories when I was with the Mets,” Chavez said.