Now that, my friends, is a save

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Oakland’s Jerry Blevins replaced Grant Balfour in a 6-5 game with runners at the corners and no outs against the Angels on Tuesday night. He promptly struck out Kendrys Morales and induced a double-play ball from Howie Kendrick to give the A’s a win.

The Angels were attempting to come back from 6-3 down in the ninth when Chris Iannetta and Mike Trout started the frame with walks. Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols followed with a pair of RBI singles, at which point A’s manager Bob Melvin removed Balfour.

The left-handed Blevins was the choice to take over, even though Morales is a switch-hitter and Kendrick bats righty. He got the job done in a big way for his second career save in 205 appearances. His other save came in 2010 against the Rays.

For Kendrick, it was the 23rd double play grounded into of the season. He’s tied with Michael Young for second in the AL, three behind Miguel Cabrera.

The A’s have taken the first two in a four-game series in Anaheim to move 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the AL West. At 81-60, they have the second best record in the AL, two games ahead of the Yankees and Orioles.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?