OAKLAND, Calif. — After being dominated by him once already this season, the Mariners did something no one else had done so far this season — saddle Oakland Athletics hard-throwing left-hander Scott Kazmir with a defeat.
Kazmir came into Monday night’s game with a spotless 4-0 record in six starts with a sparkling 2.11 earned-run average. In a previous start against the Mariners on April 13 at Safeco Field, Kazmir threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out nine but not figuring in the decision.
But past dominance mattered little to a suddenly surging Seattle squad. The Mariners scored four runs off Kazmir — the most he’s allowed this season — and then hung on for a 4-2 victory at a sparsely populated O.co Coliseum.
The win pushed the Mariners’ record to .500 at 15-15. They have won three straight and eight of their last 10 games.
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How did they beat Kazmir?
“We had better at-bats,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a real good pitcher and he had his way with us before. I thought our guys were a little bit more determined, better at-bats, better approach and we were able to get his pitch count up a little bit.”
It’s early, but the Mariners have shown they can make positive adjustments when facing a starter for the second time around.
“Well, they should,” McClendon said. “When you are a good hitter, you should. If you are doing your homework and preparing yourself the way you are supposed to be preparing yourself, then you should have better at-bats. And we’ve done that.”
The plan wasn’t complicated.
“We laid off his off-speed,” said Stefen Romero. “He likes to work both sides of the plate and wants to us to expand (the strike zone) for him. We didn’t do that.”
The Mariners set the tone early, scoring two runs off Kazmir in the first inning. Michael Saunders led off the game with a hard single to left field and Romero followed with a single back up the middle. With one out, Corey Hart plated Saunders with a single. Romero was able to advance to third on the play, which proved important because he scored on Kyle Seager’s ground ball to second.
“You always like to try and get on the board first,” McClendon said. “It’s nice to get a lead early.”
The 2-0 lead lasted until the fourth inning when Seattle starter Chris Young (2-0) gave up a two-run homer to Brandon Moss, who drove a fastball deep into the right-field stands.
The Mariners answered back immediately in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Romero blasted his first home run of the season, smashing a line drive into the second deck in left field to make it 3-2. It was just the second homer Kazmir had given up this season.
“You don’t feel anything,” Romero said. “It’s off the barrel. There’s no vibration. It feels like a hot knife going through butter, it’s the best way I can explain it.”
Not that he knew it was out off the bat. He certainly didn’t trot around the bases.
“It was windy and I didn’t know if it was going to get out like it did,” he said. “I put my head down and started sprinting. Fortunately, it went out. “
The Mariners pushed it to 4-2 in the sixth. Cole Gillespie led off the inning with a single and later came around to score when Moss lost Brad Miller’s liner to left the stadium lights.
Young pitched into the seventh, but was lifted after giving up a leadoff single to Josh Donaldson and walking Moss.
McClendon called on Charlie Furbush to face the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo to turn him around to bat right-handed. McClendon had said before the game that he was hoping to avoid high-stress, high leverage situations with Furbush because of his recent struggles. This qualified as one, but with Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen unavailable, Furbush got the call.
He did his job, getting Callaspo to hit a hard one-hopper right at Miller for an easy 6-4-3 double play.
“Coming in and getting that pitch and getting a double play was huge, I definitely felt good about it,” Furbush said. “I’m not giving up. In the past week or so, I’ve went through some struggles, but you’ve got to grind your way through them.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish