OAKLAND – There was no lopsided score at the Coliseum on Saturday, just a heaping dose of late-game drama that ended badly for the A’s.
After rallying twice from deficits in consecutive innings, the A’s lost 5-4 to the Mariners on Brad Miller’s RBI double off Fernando Abad in the 11th inning that snapped a tie.
It was Oakland’s first true nail-biter after they’d won three games in blowout fashion and lost a lopsided decision on this season-opening homestand.
The day included two crucial plays that helped turn the tide. A replay reversal wiped out a force play at second in the top of the eighth. Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer with two outs later in the inning to erase a 2-1 A’s lead. On the play at second, it was determined that shortstop Marcus Semien’s foot never touched the bag as he fielded a wide throw from reliever Eric O’Flaherty on a comebacker. In the bottom of the 10th, Ben Zobrist was waved around third and thrown out at home as he tried to score from first on Ike Davis’ double with one out.
With that, the A’s record dropped to 3-3, and they face Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on Sunday as they try to take this three-game series before hitting the road.
Starting pitching report
Gray turned in the latest standout effort from Oakland’s starting staff. He went 7 1/3 innings and was charged with two runs (one earned), though one of those runs came after he left the game with a runner on first and one out in the eighth.
Aside from Kendall Graveman’s struggles Thursday, the A’s rotation has been outstanding. In their five other games, the starters have allowed only four earned runs and 17 hits in 38 2/3 innings.
After the A’s posted three blowout victories and got blown out themselves in another, the bullpen was involved in its first high-pressure game Saturday. O’Flaherty relieved Gray in a 2-1 game and got two ground balls, but one he couldn’t convert into an inning-ending double play. Otero came on with runners on second and third and two outs, having allowed just four career homers in 138 innings.
Cruz got hold of a 1-1 pitch and drilled a three-run go-ahead shot to left to put the Mariners ahead 4-2.
After the A’s tied it, Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless ninth, but not before issuing back-to-back two-out walks. He rang up Austin Jackson looking to end the threat and keep the score tied.
At the plate
The A’s generated nothing for six innings against lefty J.A. Happ, but the bottom of the order came through in the seventh. After Billy Butler and Cody Ross singled to start the inning, Brett Lawrie moved them over with a sacrifice bunt. No. 7 hitter Josh Phegley followed by lining the first pitch to right for a game-tying single. Ross had to stop at third, but Semien drove him in with a line single to left that gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. The score stayed that way as a failed safety squeeze saw Phegley get retired at the plate for the second out, then pinch hitter Sam Fuld popped up for the third out.
But down 4-2 after Cruz’s homer, the A’s mounted another rally in the eighth to tie it. Mark Canha singled to lead off the inning, and Zobrist’s double scored him to make it 4-3. After another sacrifice and a strikeout by pinch hitter Davis, Lawrie came through with a game-tying two-out double to left.
In the field
The early portion of the game was marked by some terrific plays behind Gray. Second baseman Tyler Ladendorf showed great range going to his right to grab Kyle Seager’s grounder, then threw to Gray covering first. Zobrist made a running catch on Robinson Cano’s drive to the gap in left-center.
But a pivotal play on the defensive end swung in Seattle’s favor as they tied the game in the top of the eighth. O’Flaherty fielded a comebacker that looked like a tailor-made double play ball, but his throw was wide right. The original call was a force-out at second, but after a replay review, it was ruled that Semien’s foot didn’t touch the bag as he had possession of the ball. Instead of a potential double play, the A’s got no outs on the play and the Mariners had runners on first and second with one out. That proved costly when Cruz mashed his go-ahead homer with two outs in that inning.
Interesting tidbit: Miller stole second on the A’s without a throw in the ninth. That marked the first stolen base attempt against Oakland this season.
The announced turnout was 24,355 under blue skies and sunshine at the Coliseum.
The A’s will try to topple longtime nemesis Hernandez (1-0, 1.29) in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. homestand finale. For his career, the Mariners ace is 19-7 with a 2.58 ERA in 35 starts against the A’s, including a 4-0 record last season. Jesse Hahn (0-1, 4.50) makes his second start of the season for Oakland.