Oakland, CA – It began as a pitcher’s duel. But a challenge in the eighth was the game changer for the Mariners. Snapping a thee-game losing streak Seattle evened the series with a 5-4 win over the A’s. No one saw it coming, if you mulled over the events of the afternoon, it still might not make sense.
Both pitchers were dominant and in a zone. Sonny Gray has been remarkable on the mound since last season. But he got himself in a jam when he surrendered his first home run of the season to Dustin Ackley to leadoff the third. Gray has allowed just two runs, one earned, on seven hits this season.
“It was definitely one of those games that was going to be a grind,” said Gray. “I knew that warming up in the bullpen, but I knew after that solo homer that if I could keep them right there and give us a chance to get back in it. We did that in the seventh, just unfortunately couldn’t hold them off.”
Gray’s career-high scoreless inning streak ended against Ackely. The streak dated back to last September. While feeling under the weather he still had a great start. Gray tossed 7 1/3 frames allowing six hits two runs, one earned, one walk and four strikeouts. He retired the first six batters he faced before giving up the home run.
“Last night we got punched in the face,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And we got hit in the mouth today as well. I thought our guys rebounded and did a little punching of their own. This shows the type of fortitude this club has, because that was a gut-wrenching type of game, and they really battled and continued to fight and came out on top in the end.”
Seattle’s pitcher J.A. Happ kept his streak of wins going as he recorded his third win against Oakland in three starts. He pitched a shutout six innings allowing no runs until the seventh. The A’s cleverly knocked out Happ in the seventh when they scored two runs to take the lead 2-1.
Billy Butler leadoff with a single and is the only Athletic to hit safely in each of the first six games and is the only American Leaguer with a six-game hitting streak. Cody Ross followed with a single, Brett Lawrie’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners up. And Josh Phegley’s RBI single tied the game 1-1.
“We let them back into the game,” said Phegley. “But you saw how hard we fought.”
Two on in the corners with one out, Marcus Semien gave Oakland the lead with a RBI single. Tyler Landendorf bunted and was safe at first but the runner at home was out. A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the call, that the catcher blocked the plate. After the review, the call stood, citing there was no violation at the plate.
“It was a bad throw 100 percent,” Eric O’Flaherty said. “We work on that all spring, and I messed up. You’ve got to throw that over the bag there, so that’s on me.”
Another call challenged by the Mariners in the eighth changed the face of the game. Justin Ruggiano hit into a forceout, Flaherty threw to second for the attempt and Semien stopped short of the base before throwing to first. Seattle quickly challenged the call and after further review, the call was overturned.
They ruled it as an assist to the pitcher and an error to the shortstop. That put Jackson back at second with two runners on base. Robinson Cano lined out to first baseman Mark Canha and both runners advanced. Dan Otero replaced O’Flaherty and gave up a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz making it a 4-2 game. But the A’s weren’t done yet.
“It wasn’t a terrible pitch,” said Otero. “But in that circumstance, it obviously didn’t work out and he was looking for it. Put a good swing on it, unfortunately it didn’t end our way in the end”.
Oakland rallied back, Canha singled to leadoff the eighth and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ben Zobrist hit a RBI double and moved to third on Butler’s sacrifice bunt. Lawrie’s double scored in Zobrist and tied the game 4-4. But Semien grounded out to third baseman Kyle Seager to end the inning.
Closer Tyler Clippard got himself into a jam in the ninth when he gave up to walks to both Mike Zunino and Brad Miller after retiring the first two batters. With two batters on in scoring position, Jackson was caught looking at the plate and Clippard escaped without any damage.
The A’s had a chance to close it out in the tenth. Zobrist leadoff the inning grounding a single to right field. Pinch-hitter Ike Davis doubled but Zobrist was tagged out at home. Lawrie was walked intentionally and Davis stole second. Vogt got a free pass to load the bases but Semien grounded out leaving all three runners stranded.
By the eleventh things got away from Oakland when Abad gave up a single to Logan Morrison to leadoff the frame. Ackley followed with a sacrifice fly and Miller doubled scoring in Morrison to make it a 5-4 game. Jesse Chavez replaced Abad to retire the next two batters but the A’s offense had nothing left.
“There are just so many things you could look back on this game that could’ve decided it one way or the other, probably for both teams,” Melvin said. “And they just got one more big hit than we did.”