OAKLAND – All the winning ingredients were there for the A’s.
A return to the friendly turf of the Coliseum. A sub-.500 opponent pulling into town. Left-hander Scott Kazmir on the mound.
Except those winning ingredients don’t always turn into a winning recipe. The A’s discovered just that in a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners to begin a 10-game homestand.
Mariners right-hander Chris Young, whose fastball might or might not break a pane of glass, tied up Oakland’s hitters for six-plus innings. Then when the A’s finally got to the Mariners’ bullpen, they couldn’t find a way to break through in the opener of this four-game series.
“Obviously it looks like (Young) is throwing soft, and the radar gun says he’s throwing soft,” A’s outfielder Brandon Moss said. “But the way he pitches, up an down, it makes it tough because it’s so rare you see something like that. I think it’s his arm angle and his height.
“He’s 6-foot 10. He’s throwing out of the sky.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin referred to Young as “an acquired taste” if you don’t face him very often.
“He’s unique in what he does,” Melvin said. “You look at the gun, and it’s 85 miles-per-hour, and he’s throwing the ball by you.”
It probably wasn’t wise to put too much stock in the A’s 25-run outburst during a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers last week. Perhaps there’s little use in jumping to conclusions during this latest stretch in which the A’s have totaled just nine runs over the last four games.
“You’re gonna go 1-5 every now and then, and you’re gonna go 7-1 every now and then,” Moss said. “You’ve just gotta try to ride the wave as long as you can when you’re going well and try to get out of it when you’re not.”
But the A’s could definitely use a bounce-back effort Tuesday. Wednesday’s doubleheader will be a battle of pitching attrition. The Mariners will run Felix Hernandez to the mound for one of those contests, and you know where that road typically takes the A’s.
They’ve lost three of their past four, but the saving grace is that the Rangers haven’t been able to take advantage of it. Oakland still holds a two-game lead over Texas in the American League West. Which is the hottest team in the division?
The Mariners, who have gone 8-2 over their past 10 and pulled their record to an even 15-15 with Monday’s victory.
“(Kazmir) had his way with us for two outings in a row,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought our guys were probably a little bit more determined tonight. Better at-bats, better approach.”
Kazmir didn’t have his best stuff. Both Melvin and catcher John Jaso said the lefty didn’t the typical zip on his fastball. He wasn’t hit particularly hard in a two-run first inning, but he was kicking himself for missing location on a fifth-inning changeup that Stefen Romero hit for a homer right after the A’s had pulled into a 2-2 tie.
Seattle added an insurance run when Moss, playing left field because Yoenis Cespedes’ strained left hamstring is acting up, lost Brad Miller’s liner in the lights and it went for a run-scoring single in the sixth.
“Sometimes those plays feel worse than errors,” Moss said. “You feel helpless.”
The A’s can help themselves by rediscovering their offense Tuesday. A healthy return to the lineup by Cespedes would certainly provide a boost.
They have Jesse Chavez on the mound, and they’ve won all six of his starting assignments. Then again, they had to like their chances with Kazmir on the mound in the series opener too.
Don’t ever accuse this team of getting too predictable.