SEATTLE –- All the components came together for the A’s on Sunday afternoon, and they leave the Pacific Northwest carrying a swagger that was absent when they arrived.
Bolstered by Jon Lester’s strong outing and Brandon Moss’ first home run in seven weeks, the A’s blanked the Mariners 4-0 to take this three-game series and serve notice that they won’t simply fade off the postseason map.
Oakland showed up in Seattle having lost four series in a row and losing 12 of their previous 16.
After dropping Friday’s opener at Safeco Field, they won Saturday despite facing longtime nemesis Felix Hernandez.
Then they took the rubber game by combining all of the elements that made them the majors’ best team in the first half –- stout pitching, hitting the long ball and building on a lead with late-inning runs.
With Kansas City losing to Boston, the A’s increased their lead to 1 ½ games over the Royals for the American League’s top wild card spot and 2 ½ games over the Mariners. Now they return home to enjoy their final day off Monday before opening their final homestand of the season.
Sam Fuld got the A’s off to a good start with a solo homer in the first. Moss snapped his 39-game homerless streak in the seventh, then Fuld and Adam Dunn padded the lead with run-scoring singles in the eighth.
Starting pitching report
Pitching with traffic on the bases all afternoon, Lester (15-10) managed to navigate his way through six scoreless innings. He surrendered just four hits but also walked four. It didn’t hurt him.
He got a 6-4-3 double play to strand a runner at third in the first inning, then he stranded another runner at third base two innings later. Lester had a good curve ball working, and he used it to ring up several of his seven strikeouts.
The big lefty may not have been his sharpest, but he was the right guy on the mound in a critical game that carried some momentum swing for the A’s.
Dan Otero pitched himself into a sticky jam in the seventh, then pitched his way right out of it.
Two singles and a wild pitch put Mariners on second and third with no outs, and the A’s clinging to a 2-0 lead. But Otero retired Austin Jackson on a grounder to first, struck out pinch hitter Michael Saunders, and after an intentional walk to Robinson Cano, he escaped the jam by getting cleanup man Kendrys Morales on a fly ball to left.
Luke Gregerson delivered his second strong outing in a row and Sean Doolittle closed it out for the second straight day.
At the plate
The return of the long ball would be a welcome development for the A’s. They entered the day with just six homers in September. Then Fuld got them off to a good start when he cleared the right field wall against Chris Young (12-8) in the first. IN the seventh, Moss got underneath a 2-0 pitch from Young and sent one out to right, his first homer since July 24.
In the field
The Mariners hurt the A’s with four stolen bases in the first five innings, as catcher Derek Norris struggled mightily with his throws to second. Controlling the runnin game better is still something Oakland needs to do better, but it didn’t hurt them on this day.
The announced turnout was 28,925.
After their final day off of the season Monday, the A’s open a nine-game homestand with three against the Texas Rangers.
The adjusted rotation has Scott Kazmir (14-8, 3.32) facing Nick Tepesch (4-10, 4.47) in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. series opener. Jeff Samardzija (4-5, 3.41) takes on Derek Holland (1-0, 0.86) on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. Then Sonny Gray (13-8, 3.18) and Nick Martinez (3-11, 4.93) match up in Thursday’s 12:35 p.m. contest.