Minus Ichiro, Lopez and Hall keep Mariners winning

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners are 9-2 without the great Ichiro Suzuki.

It's enough to make the Mariners pause -- to wish for more games against last-place Oakland.

Jose Lopez homered, newly acquired Bill Hall drove in two runs and Luke French won his third game in four decisions as a Mariner in Seattle's 5-3 victory over the Athletics on Wednesday night.

Even without their nine-time All-Star leadoff man and eight-time Gold Glove outfielder, who may be out into the weekend with a sore calf, the AL's lowest-scoring team swept three games from the team ranked last in the league in slugging percentage, extra-base hits and home runs entering Wednesday.

It was Seattle's first series sweep since June 19-21, against Arizona. It kept the Mariners on the fringes of the AL wild-card race, 7½ games behind front-running Boston.

The Mariners were 6-2 when Suzuki began the season on the disabled list following a bleeding ulcer. Three of those wins came in another sweep of the A's.

"It's opportunity. It's about the support of one another," said first-year manager Don Wakamatsu, who has succeeded in instilling a unified attitude into what was a divided team that lost 101 games in 2008.

Suzuki dressed quietly in the clubhouse after the game. He declined an interview request through his interpreter.

The Mariners don't want him to return too soon and potentially damage the calf more severely. That would jeopardize his chance to become the first major leaguer with nine consecutive 200-hit seasons. He needs 16.

"He says he's ready to go -- but he said he was ready to go in January," Wakamatsu said before the game.

Closer David Aardsma nearly scoffed at the idea life is grand without Suzuki, whose 1,396 games played since 2001 is the most in the majors during that span.

"It's not that we're playing better without him," Aardsma said. "But when he's out of the lineup, people think they've got to pick it up a bit."

Aardsma followed relievers Miguel Batista and Mark Lowe in keeping Oakland scoreless over the final 4 1/3 innings. Barely.

Aardsma allowed a ground-ball single to Mark Ellis and a bloop hit to Ryan Sweeney to begin the ninth. He struck out Tommy Everidge looking at a 96 mph fastball almost down the middle. Pinch-hitter Nomar Garciaparra then looked at another 96 mph pitch on the inside corner for strike three, with the veteran protesting to umpire Dan Bellino it was off the plate. Adam Kennedy grounded out to conclude Aardsma's 30th save in 34 chances.

He became the sixth Mariner to get 30 saves in a season. Aardsma had zero in four major league seasons before 2009.

"Coming into the season, I never had any expectations for any of this," he said.

Lopez's 19th home run of the season was a two-run shot in the first off Gio Gonzalez (4-5).

Hall's RBIs came on a single in the third and sacrifice fly in the fifth that made it 4-1. His other two-RBI game with Seattle was Friday at Cleveland, his first game after a trade from Milwaukee.

French (4-3), making his fifth start since Seattle acquired him from Detroit in the Jarrod Washburn trade, allowed six hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

After Kurt Suzuki hit French's 0-2 changeup for his 11th home run with a man on in the sixth, Jack Cust hit an extraordinarily high drive down the right-field line and off a seldom-reached, top window of a restaurant. First-base umpire Mike Winters ruled it foul. A's manager Bob Geren came out and asked Winters, the crew chief, "That went over the pole, didn't it?"

After a couple minutes' delay for a review, Winters emerged with his crew and again signaled foul ball instead of a tying home run.

"You don't see too many homers in the major leagues go completely over a foul pole," Geren said. "[The umpires] did the right thing."

In the fourth, Cust hit another towering drive to right -- fair -- for his 20th home run.

It's his third consecutive season with at least 20 homers. He had five home runs in 169 plate appearances for four other teams dating to 2001, before San Diego traded him to the A's for cash in May 2007.

"I'm pumped about that," Cust said, adding he appreciated being asked about the career turnaround.

Game notes
Geren reiterated he will have a six-man rotation when rosters expand in September. One of them may not be LHP Dallas Braden, who could be done for the season. A neurologist found Braden has nerve trauma in his left foot. He's been on the DL since Aug. 8, first for a rash on the foot.