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Notes: Long road back ends for Lowe

Notes: Long road back ends for Lowe

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SEATTLE -- It was a long road. Eleven months and nine days, to be exact. Saturday's game was much more than just another win in Seattle's 4-3 triumph over the A's for reliever Mark Lowe.

It was the ultimate payoff.

Lowe had not appeared in a single Major League game this season until Saturday because of two offseason surgeries on his right elbow. He made a number of rehabilitation appearances before coming off the disabled list on July 24, but his last Major League appearance came on Aug. 19, 2006, when he allowed two runs and three hits in just one inning against the Angels.

On Saturday it was just one-third of an inning, and he walked one batter, but it was certainly the biggest step the 24-year-old had taken in a long process to get back on a big league mound.

So was he excited to make his first appearance with the Mariners in almost a year?

"Absolutely," Lowe said. "I sat around for four days looking to get into a couple of games ... It was almost like a second debut kind of thing for me."

That second debut was received well by the team and the fans, who were happy to see him make his return after rehabbing for many months.

"To see where he's come from, where he is today, is such a feel-good story because he's such a quality guy," said Mariners manager John McLaren. "For him to work his way up, to fight his way back to where he is now, I know he feels good, but we feel good, too."

Lowe said he wasn't at all nervous about returning because he had already made so many Minor League rehab appearances. And it didn't bother him at all that he came in with the Mariners nursing a one-run lead, as opposed to a so-called "soft landing," which would occur if the team was nursing a big lead, as it was in Friday's 7-1 win.

McLaren would have much rather used Lowe on Friday night, but didn't want to because he had warmed up multiple times in the bullpen, and McLaren didn't want to push his arm too far.

He came through in a tough situation, though, and, more than anything, McLaren was impressed with Lowe's ultimate payoff.

"I was very impressed with him," McLaren said. "The thoughts he must have had in his mind about not being able to pitch again, to get out on the mound like that, it was really special."

McLaren said, at least for right now, Lowe will not be used on back-to-back days.

Trivia time: Seattle won Saturday's game despite recording just four hits. What is the Mariners' record this season when recording four or fewer hits in a game? See the answer below.

He's no stiff: Backup catcher Jamie Burke did not play Saturday's day game because of a stiff neck, and although he was ready to go for Sunday's series finale against the A's, McLaren elected to go with Kenji Johjima again on Sunday.

Burke said the tightness came after sleeping on the plane trip home from Texas, but was ready to go Sunday after team trainers helped loosen it up.

But McLaren was happy with Johjima's recent performance, including a two-run home run in Saturday's win. He had been in a recent slump, but seems to have come around as of late, hitting 2-for-7 over his last two games.

"I like what I see in Kenji," McLaren said. "He's starting to put it together."

Wall art: Former Mariner Bret Boone left McLaren a little note on his desk Saturday night, one with a request on it. He wants to be on the manager's wall.

McLaren, who is still getting settled in his office, said he's going to dig up an old photo of Boone to put on his wall, which right now features a few photos of McLaren and a framed scorecard from his first win as manager.

"Boone was a little alarmed his picture wasn't up in this office with me," McLaren joked. "I just told him that these weren't actually my calls on the photos, but we're digging a Boone photo up so we can put him up there and make it right."

McLaren thinks the Boone may have an office to decorate of his own some day, as long as he's patient for it.

"Boone is one of the smartest players I've been around in 21 years in the big leagues," McLaren said. "He's got a baseball mind like his dad, and I would hope that somewhere in the cards that he'll get back in this game and share his knowledge and experience in the game with some young kid, because it would only help him."

Closing time: Closer J.J. Putz's 30th save Saturday night made him the second-fastest Mariners pitcher to record 30 saves in a season, logging them in 102 games. Kazuhiro Sasaki achieved 30 saves on July 7, 2004, after just 90 games.

Comeback kids: Saturday's come-from-behind, 4-3 win was the 31st time the Mariners have recorded a win after trailing this season.

And the answer is ... Seattle is 2-9 this season when recording four hits or fewer in a game. Saturday's 4-3 win over the A's snapped a nine-game losing streak when collecting four or fewer hits.

On deck: The Mariners open what is arguably the biggest series of their season Monday night, hosting the first-place Angels for a three-game series. Righty Miguel Batista (10-7, 4.48 ERA) opposes right-hander Kelvim Escobar (11-4, 2.91) at 7:05 p.m. PT.

Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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