SEATTLE — A season-ending road trip that began quite gloomily for the A’s wound up ending on a high note.
They closed the book on 2016 by salvaging a four-game split with the Seattle Mariners, including Sunday’s 3-2 victory in the finale at Safeco Field. It doesn’t serve as a tonic for a second consecutive last-place finish in the American League West, but the A’s at least venture into the offseason having won their final two games after dropping the first five on their two-city trek to Anaheim and Seattle.
Their 69-93 record ties for seventh-worst in Oakland history. Needless to say, it wasn’t what the A’s envisioned back in spring training, when they had legitimate hope for improving on last season’s 68-94 record. With Sunday’s win, they finished one game better than that mark.
Stephen Vogt got things going for the A’s in the first, homering to the opposite field off Mariners starter Felix Hernandez (11-8). That would be Vogt’s final plate appearance of the season, as manager Bob Melvin took the chance to pinch-hit for the veteran the next time his spot in the lineup came up so as to end his season on a high note.
The A’s tacked on two more runs in the third. Matt Olson lined a double to right-center and scored on Marcus Semien’s single. Then another rookie, Chad Pinder, pinch-hit for Vogtand singled in Semien.
That was enough offense for Sean Manaea to pick up the victory on the mound, as John Axford finished things out in the ninth for his third save.
Starting pitching report
Manaea finished out an excellent final month to his rookie season, holding the Mariners to two runs over six innings with five strikeouts and a walk. After missing the early part of the month with a back issue, Manaea came back and allowed just three runs total over four starts (24 IP). The only damage off him Sunday came on Guillermo Heredia’s two-out, two-run double down the left-field line in the fifth. That cut the A’s lead to 3-2, but Manaea’s bullpen made sure he secured his seventh victory. The lefty finished with a 7-9 record and 3.86 ERA in 24 starts (25 appearances), and his season-long improvement will have him locked into one of the A’s five rotation spots entering 2017.
Liam Hendriks struck out two in his inning of work and Daniel Coulombe handled the eighth to get the ball to Axford.
Hernandez was limited to just three innings, and the A’s were familiar with the man who replaced him. Switch pitcher Pat Venditte came on for the fourth and threw two scoreless innings against his former team. Another former Athletic, Cody Martin, also tossed two scoreless frames.
At the plate
Vogt came in 12-for-29 against Hernandez, so it wasn’t a shock to see him go deep for his 14th homer. The sight of Olson driving a ball to the gap had to be good for Melvin. The rookie, who started in right field, entered the day just 1-for-17 since his call-up.
In the field
In the ninth, Olson added a terrific play. He went back to the wall and made a leaping catch of a liner smoked off the bat of Kyle Seager. IT was the second leaping catch at the wall that Olson has made in his stint with Oakland.
The announced turnout was 24,856 on a chilly afternoon in the Northwest.
February will arrive quicker than you know it, and the A’s will report a few days earlier than normal to account for the World Baseball Classic being played during spring training.