OAKLAND -– Starting pitching has been the A’s backbone this season, even as things have gone adrift in most other facets of their game.
Lately, even the rotation is taking its lumps however. The latest evidence was Saturday’s 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners, when Jesse Chavez was shown the exit before the third inning was even in the books. The Mariners jumped him for three runs in the first, on their way to a 6-0 lead by the fourth.
With Felix Hernandez on the hill for the visitors, the outcome played out predictably. The longtime A’s nemesis went eight innings, struck out nine and didn’t issue a walk, improving to 22-8 lifetime against Oakland.
The final fireworks show of the home schedule took place after the game, but the festive atmosphere and large crowds on such nights didn’t exactly bring out the best in the A’s. They finished 0-6 on fireworks nights at the Coliseum this season.
In the bigger picture, the A’s fell to 58-78, their first time they’ve fallen as many as 20 games under .500 since finishing the 1997 season 65-97.
Oakland’s starters are now 2-13 with a 5.76 ERA in their last 23 games, and Saturday marked the second time in three games that an opponent scored at least three runs in the first inning.
Starting pitching report
Chavez (7-14) had trouble locating the strike zone from the get-go, walking two and giving up three runs in a 33-pitch first inning. He threw 14 of his first 21 pitches for balls and issued a career-high five walks total. Not surprisingly, he also turned in the shortest start of his career at two-plus innings. Chavez has shown glimpses of his sharp first-half form lately, but the numbers don’t lie. Over his last 13 starts he’s posted a 5.75 ERA, and he’s failed to complete five innings in four of his past nine outings. Logan Morrison’s two-run homer in the third increased the Mariners’ lead to 5-0, and Chavez would last just one more batter.
Pat Venditte pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Arnold Leon, who the A’s want to get a good lookat in relief, gave up Shawn O’Malley’s homer in the fourth.
At the plate
It appeared as if the A’s might make a game of it when they scored three runs in the fourth to cut the deficit to 6-3. Mark Canha clubbed his 12th homer, a shot to right-center that broke an 0-for-8 career streak against Hernandez (16-8****). With two outs, Stephen Vogt singled and Brett Lawrie doubled, then Billy Butler chopped a two-run single up the middle to make it a three-run game. But the A’s, who finished with just seven hits overall, wouldn’t get closer.
In the field
Solid glovework wasn’t going to save the A’s. But the play of the game was turned in by second baseman Brett Lawrie, who made an excellent over-the-head catch of Kyle Seager’s shallow fly to center in the fourth. Lawrie was running with his back to the infield as he made the play.
The final fireworks night of the season drew a crowd of 27,387 to the Coliseum.
The A’s roughed up Hisashi Iwakuma (6-3, 4.22) for seven runs on Aug. 24 in Seattle. Another big offensive day surely would benefit Sean Nolin (0-0, 0.00), who will be making his A’s debut Sunday. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.