The Mariners failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities en route to getting swept by A's.
OAKLAND, Calif. — There is apparently only so much of this learning experience stuff the Mariners can take without losing their temper.
Shawn Kelley demonstrated that in the eighth inning of a 5-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday when he heaved his glove against a dugout wall. Kelley was upset with himself for yielding a go-ahead home run to Yoenis Cespedes that frame, which helped the Mariners get swept to end a dismal month in which they’ve been steamrolled in the win-loss column by playoff contenders.
The Mariners heard platitudes thrown their way throughout a 1-5 trip about how they’re a young team gaining valuable experience whenever they come up short in these games that are important for their opponents. But after another loss in which an A’s squad that is also young took full advantage of Seattle’s inability to execute, talk of this boding well for the future wasn’t quite cutting it.
“It’s definitely been pretty crazy,” Kelley said of the way the A’s rallied to pull games out. “I haven’t seen anything like it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go out there and hold it down and keep us there and get the big outs that we need to in order to give our hitters another chance.
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“You don’t like to lose, but to keep losing in this fashion is just no fun.”
Josh Reddick added to the misery with a two-run home run later in the eighth off Lucas Luetge to complete the A’s scoring.
The pitchers didn’t even shoulder the biggest blame for this loss, played in front of 21,057 at the Coliseum. Seattle struggled to capitalize on opportunities and, incredibly, found itself tied 2-2 heading into the eighth despite outhitting the A’s 11-3 to that point.
Erasmo Ramirez had limited the A’s to only three hits through 6-1/3 innings of his final start this season despite allowing a pair of first-inning runs. But his offense once again could not get it done.
The Mariners had runners at first and third with nobody out in the seventh, but A’s reliever Ryan Cook struck out Casper Wells, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero. Wells had a one-out triple in the fifth, but Seager struck out and then, after a walk to Montero, Justin Smoak grounded out.
Seattle had three hits in the second inning, but couldn’t score as Smoak was thrown out at home when waved around from second on a single by Carlos Triunfel.
The only Seattle runs came in the third inning when Seager singled to score Franklin Gutierrez — who left the game immediately after with tightness in his left groin — to cut into a 2-0 deficit. Smoak then tied the game with a two-out single off A’s starter Tommy Milone that scored Wells.
But that was it until the eighth, when a weary-looking Seattle bullpen came up short once again.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games lately in this road trip, and having the feeling of just being another guy out there and letting them do their thing doesn’t sit with me well,” Kelley said.
The young bullpen continues to falter as the innings load piles up. But Kelley isn’t buying that as an excuse.
“It’s different, but at the same time if we want to make a stretch run at the playoffs, we’re going to have to be pitching at our best this time of year,” he said. “There’s no excuse for being tired. We all — hitters and pitchers — have been through a long grind.”
The A’s came in looking poised for the sweep, jumping on Ramirez with a Cespedes triple to right that scored the game’s first run. Cespedes then scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Brandon Moss.
But Ramirez tightened up and gave the Mariners a chance to tie it up again. Trouble is, they never could regain the lead.
“When you’ve got guys at first and third and nobody out there and nothing to show for it there, it keeps them in the ballgame,” Smoak said. “Those guys over there have come back a lot this year.”
It’s been the same story all season long, but more frequent in the second half of the season, where the team is averaging just 3.63 runs compared to 3.87 in the first half. The Mariners have scored 39 more runs than last season to this point, but that isn’t very much considering they have already hit 37 more home runs.
Considering the team’s batting average is identical to last year’s at .233 and its on-base percentage is almost the same at .294 (compared to .292), the home run boost should have caused far more scoring. But it hasn’t, largely because the Mariners don’t execute when given chances.
“It’s really been the story of our season, offensively,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Without a doubt, these kids have gotten better individually, but collectively we’ve got to do better when you do create those opportunities and finish things off.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.