OAKLAND, Calif. — The Mariners’ road trip went from great to just good Sunday with a 6-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics at O.Co Coliseum.
Heading home from the first trip of the season with a 4-2 record, with all of the games against America League West opponents, is something the Mariners would have gladly taken if offered at the start of the season.
But the prospect of going 5-1 to start the season was just intoxicating enough that it made falling short feel a little anti-climactic.
Manager Lloyd McClendon reminded his team that regardless of Sunday’s mistakes, the road trip was a positive way to head into Monday’s off day and prepare for the home opener Tuesday at Safeco Field against the Angels.
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“Any time you come off a road trip with a winning record, regardless of how you got there, that’s a successful trip,” he said.
A large reason for that success has been starting pitching. Going into Sunday’s finale, Mariners starters had combined to go 4-0 with a 1.62 earned-run average with 37 strikeouts in 331
3 innings pitched.
But Erasmo Ramirez couldn’t keep that run rolling. The right-hander struggled with his command and never found a rhythm.
“Today, I didn’t feel it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t feel like the strike thrower I am.”
The Mariners tried to help out with some early run support. They scored two runs in the second inning as Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller both delivered two-out RBI singles. But for the second time this season, Almonte made a costly decision on the bases. He tried to go from first to third on Miller’s single and A’s right fielder Sam Fuld threw him out to end the inning with Robinson Cano waiting to hit.
“It was a bad play,” Almonte said. “With two outs, it was a little bit risky. I will try to do better next time. If the ball was hit a little bit softer I might have had a chance, but the ball was hit so hard.”
McClendon wasn’t angry at Almonte.
“I’ve told my guys I want them to unleash their talents and be aggressive, but you also have to be intelligent,” McClendon said. “I said it before, ‘He’s going to make some mistakes.’ In that situation, you gotta know we got our best hitter coming to the plate. In this game, it’s unfortunate, the only way you learn is to make mistakes and learn from them.”
The 2-0 lead could have been so much more. The Mariners made it 3-0 in the third inning on Justin Smoak’s soft single up the middle to score Cano.
But the lead disappeared in the bottom half of the inning.
Ramirez’s command issues came back to haunt him. With one out and runners on first and second, a poorly placed fastball resulted in a three-run homer for Brandon Moss.
What’s odd is that pitching coach Rick Waits had just visited the mound moments before.
“It was just to calm me down and to get me to think about what I’m doing,” Ramirez said. “They said to relax and execute the next pitch.”
He didn’t. It was supposed to be fastball down and away. Instead, it stayed up and over the middle of the plate. Moss knew exactly what to do with it.
“It was a bad pitch, bad location,” Ramirez said. “He got good contact. Tie ballgame.”
The score remained tied until the bottom of the fifth inning. Ramirez gave up a leadoff single to Eric Sogard and then walked Coco Crisp. A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position and Josh Donaldson gave the A’s the lead for good, beating out an infield single up the middle.
McClendon lifted Ramirez for reliever Chris Young, who gave up a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.
Of the 83 pitches Ramirez threw, only 49 were strikes.
“What we have to understand, particularly with young starters, they’re so hyped up with that first start that they are letting everything hang out,” McClendon said. “He was coming back on regular rest. It was probably a bit much. He wasn’t as sharp. I suspect he’ll be better the next time out.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish