It was a scenario seen innumerable times before from the Mariners, one their manager steadfastly believes they're eventually going to conquer...
It was a scenario seen innumerable times before from the Mariners, one their manager steadfastly believes they’re eventually going to conquer.
But with a chance to move into second place, the Mariners couldn’t get the late clutch hit they needed to catch the Athletics.
The result was a frustrating 4-3 defeat on a balmy night at Safeco Field before a crowd of 30,089, with the Mariners squandering a golden opportunity to tie the score in the eighth, and another in the ninth. The A’s snapped a five-game losing streak.
“We had so many opportunities those last three innings,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Everyone was working real hard to create opportunities to at least tie the ballgame, and probably end up doing more being at home.
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“A few guys stepped up, a few guys didn’t. I loved the fight. There was a lot of fight there. Guys were in it all the way to the end and made them work real hard for that win. But ultimately they got it done.”
The Mariners, in fact, put eight runners on base over the final three innings, but could get just one of them home, stranding six. The frustration was particularly acute in the eighth and ninth.
With the Mariners trailing by a run, Michael Saunders led off the eighth with an infield single. Kyle Seager struck out, but with Saunders running on a 3-2 pitch, Kendrys Morales singled to left-center to easily advance Saunders to third.
That brought up cleanup hitter Michael Morse, but he couldn’t get the run home as A’s reliever Ryan Cook struck him out swinging.
The A’s still weren’t home free, however, as Justin Smoak drew a walk to load the bases. That brought up Endy Chavez, who also struck out to end the inning with three left aboard.
The Mariners got a one-out walk from Kelly Shoppach in the ninth off Oakland closer Grant Balfour, but Robert Andino struck out on three pitches. Saunders’ single moved Shoppach to second, but Seager, after Balfour fell behind 3-0, took a called strike and grounded out to second to end the game.
“If we keep having good at-bats and keep getting guys on base, things can change with one at-bat,” Smoak said. “We all know that.”
Oakland starter Jarrod Parker held the Mariners hitless until two were out in the fifth. Shoppach broke up the no-hitter in emphatic fashion, launching an opposite-field homer to right with a man aboard to cut Oakland’s lead to 3-2.
“I just think it’s funny how baseball works,” Shoppach said. “I hit four or five foul balls to the left of the third-base coach and hit a ball to right. You just never know.”
But the A’s got that run right back in the sixth when Brandon Moss greeted new pitcher Charlie Furbush with a homer. It was the third solo homer by the A’s, following a pair off Seattle starter Brandon Maurer, by Josh Donaldson and Daric Barton.
Maurer, whose last start had been skipped, was working for the first time in 11 days. He lasted five innings, giving up six hits and three runs. Wedge felt Maurer was rushing his delivery, and the pitcher agreed. He threw nearly as many balls (44) as strikes (51).
“He made it hard for himself,” Wedge said. “He did bend but he didn’t break. That’s something he needs to take from this. He worked behind a lot. His tempo was way too quick. … But he fought through it, and he did control damage, and in the end he gave us a chance to win the ballgame.”
Maurer admitted he was extra revved up.
“It took awhile to settle in,” he said. “I was rushing quite a bit at the beginning. Once I had a mound visit and was told to calm it down, that helped.”
After Shoppach’s homer, the Mariners didn’t get their second hit off Parker until Smoak’s one-out single in the seventh. That was followed by another single from Raul Ibanez, causing A’s manager Bob Melvin to bring in left-hander Sean Doolittle to face Dustin Ackley.
Ackley promptly grounded a single into right field. Third-base coach Daren Brown put up a stop sign for Smoak, but he ran right through it and barely beat the throw home from right.
“Before I got to third, I saw him waving me,” Smoak said. “I hit third and looked up and the stop sign was there, but I was already passed stopping. It’s hard to slow me down.”
That cut Oakland’s lead to 4-3, but the rally died when Shoppach struck out and pinch-hitter Jason Bay grounded out.