SEATTLE – The A’s found themselves on the happy side of a one-run ball game Saturday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
They squeezed out a run in the top of the 10th with a big assist from Seattle closer Fernando Rodney and posted a 3-2 victory at Safeco Field to even this key series between wild card contenders at a game apiece.
The A’s broke a 2-2 tie without benefit of a hit, as Rodney, the major leagues’ saves leader, walked four (one intentional) in the 10th. His four-pitch free pass to Jed Lowrie forced in the go-ahead run, and then Sean Doolittle shut the door in the bottom of the 10th in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list.
It was a huge win for the A’s, who had dropped 12 of their previous 15 and maintained a half-game lead over Kansas City for the top wild card spot. They also managed to steal a game in which Felix Hernandez took the hill for the Mariners. Seattle had won all five of Hernandez’s previous starts against Oakland this season.
Close games had not treated the A's kindly of late. From Sept. 2-11, all seven of their losses were by one run, matching the longest such streak in franchise history dating back to 1901.
Starting pitching report
Sonny Gray avoided the early-game sluggishness that’s plagued many of his starts this season, and he held the Mariners to two runs over eight innings.
His biggest mistake came in the bottom of the seventh, when he surrendered Robinson Cano’s game-tying homer that went deep into the seats in right field. Gray gave up just five hits, struck out seven and walked two.
He managed his pitch count well, and that allowed him to pitch deep into the game. Gray was especially impressive in the bottom of the eighth, after he sat a long top half of the inning that featured three pitching changes from Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon. With the score tied, Gray gave up a one-out single to James Jones, then got charged with an error when his pickoff throw deflected off Brandon Moss’ glove and allowed Jones to advance to second.
Gray struck out Chris Taylor and Austin Jackson to end the inning, pumping his fists after his 96th and final pitch.
Luke Gregerson was sharp in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, then Doolittle took the mound looking to protect a 3-2 lead after the A’s went ahead. It marked his first appearance since a strained intercostal muscle sidelined him Aug. 23. He set the Mariners down in order to help the A’s tie this three-game series.
[RELATED: A's reinstate closer Doolittle from DL]
At the plate
The A’s got good wood on Hernandez in the early portion of the game but didn’t advance a runner past first base through the first five innings. But in the sixth, Donaldson got ahold of a 1-0 pitch and drilled a liner over left field wall to make it a 1-1 game. Oakland entered the night with just five homers in its previous 14 games, and the blast marked Donaldson’s first career homer off Hernandez in his 33rd at-bat against the right-hander.
Reddick lined a double to left-center with one out in the seventh, then Eric Sogard put Oakland ahead when he lined a two-out RBI single just over the leaping attempt of Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor.
The A’s had Sogard on first after a single in the top of the ninth. With two outs, he tried to steal second and was called safe. But umpires reviewed the play and reversed the call for the third out, and the game remained tied.
In the field
Gray got a big lift from three ground-ball double plays, although one came with an asterisk in the second inning. Interference was called on Logan Morrison as he slid nowhere in the vicinity of second base as he tried to disrupt A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie’s throw on the turn. Lowrie never did get the ball off, but manager Bob Melvin came out to argue, the umpires ruled interference, and Mike Zunino, who hit the grounder, was also ruled out.
A sellout crowd of 43,913 watched this one.
Chris Young (12-7, 3.35) didn’t make it out of the first inning in a Sept. 1 start against the A’s at the Coliseum. He’ll take the mound again Sunday, with Jon Lester (13-10, 2.54) going for Oakland in the 1:10 p.m. game.