On an odd night at Safeco Field, fast start was a key in Mariners' back-to-back victories.
The first indication this was going to be a weird night came when Brendan Ryan hit a first-inning chopper to the shortstop and wound up on third base.
Ryan made the Oakland Athletics’ defense look as bad as it’s been for most of the season Tuesday night by legging out an infield single, then grabbing not one, but two extra bases as the opposing fielders dozed and failed to cover their bags.
One of the more bizarre plays in recent memory fired up the Mariners, who scored twice that inning and held on for a 4-2 win that gave them consecutive victories for the first time in four weeks.
“That’s how we should be approaching every game — hungry,” Ryan said. “Because we can’t rely on three-run homers and stuff to win games.”
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The crowd of 22,576 at Safeco Field seemed just as revved up as the Mariners were about the first-inning play. Ryan later scored on a two-run double by Mike Carp that opened the scoring.
The fans didn’t get much more to cheer about until the sixth, when Casper Wells hit his first home run for his new club, a two-run shot to left off Oakland starter Rich Harden that doubled Seattle’s lead to 4-0.
Scott Sizemore cut that advantage in half in the seventh with a two-run homer to center off Felix Hernandez, ending his night. Hernandez (10-9) got the win, striking out nine over 6-1/3 innings. But not before some more weirdness saved reliever Jeff Gray and the Mariners in the eighth.
Oakland had loaded the bases with one out with noted Mariners killer Kurt Suzuki at the plate. Suzuki seemed fooled by an off-speed pitch at 1-2 and swung at it even though the ball wound up hitting him.
Instead of being awarded the base and forcing in a run, Suzuki was out on strikes. Gray then struck out Eric Sogard to end the final real threat by Oakland.
The Ryan play was the main topic of postgame conversation, even in a night filled with other strange happenings.
“The second baseman oftentimes is backing up first, so if you can get past the first and second basemen, you’ve got second base open,” Ryan said. “So, I looked for it and it looked like nobody saw me, so I took off for second.
“Then I got to second and it looked like the closest person to third was right next to me, so I figured if I could get past him I’ve got third.”
Mariners newcomer Wells watched with the rest of his teammates as Ryan completed his latest in a series of mad dashes this season.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Wells said. “It seemed like a Little League play. Kind of like a Bad News Bears play.”
Earlier in the game, things had taken a turn for the strange when a professional Ichiro impersonator seated down the right-field line reached out and interfered with a Dustin Ackley triple. The crowd initially booed the impersonator vociferously, until umpires awarded third base to Ackley, ruling he would have made it there had the ball not been touched.
The impersonator was moved to another section of seats.
One final bit of oddness occurred in the bottom of the eighth when Kyle Seager was brought in to pinch-hit for Justin Smoak. Seager had played for Class AAA Tacoma in the afternoon, going 0 for 5, then struck out for the Mariners on a day in which he played in both a minor-league and major-league contest.
It turns out Smoak had bruised his left thumb fielding a ground ball earlier in the contest, but X-rays were negative and he should only miss a day or two.
There was nothing bizarre about a strong defensive play Wells made in left field on a single by Ryan Sweeney in the top of the eighth. Hideki Matsui was already on base and — though he isn’t the fastest runner — might have scored had the ball gotten by Wells in the left-center gap.
Instead, the ball was cut off and Oakland went on to strike out twice after subsequently loading the bases.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the Wells play kept the game from getting away from his club. Wedge said the baserunning by Ryan also gave the team a needed early boost.
“Everything you felt in the stands on that play, that’s what we were feeling in the dugout,” Wedge said. “There’s nothing that’s going to give a team more energy than good baserunning and aggressive baserunning.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A’s @ Mariners, 12:40 p.m., ROOT Sports